A 5-day special session of Parliament kicked off on September 18, 2023, captured the nation's attention as Prime Minister Modi initiated a unique discussion in the Lok Sabha on the "Parliamentary journey of 75 years starting from Samvidhan Sabha - Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings".
However, there had been much speculation regarding what could have been taken up during these 5-days sessions. There's also some fuss because the newly formed Opposition, I.N.D.I.A says they don't know what's on the agenda.
Let’s delve into this article to know the Centre’s next moves in this extraordinary session.
We will also discuss the provisions of the Special Session along with the instances when the Parliament had called upon such special sittings.
Parliament’s Special Session 2023 kicks off with 8 Bills
1. As per Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, a total of 8 bills have been listed for consideration & passage during the session, but the most debated ‘One Nation, One Election’ bill was not included in the line-up
2. At an all-party meeting, floor leaders were reportedly informed that a bill on the welfare of senior citizens (Senior Citizens Welfare Bill, 2023) and three bills related to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) Orders had been added to the agenda of this session.
3. During the session, the government also listed the bill on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other election commissioners. This bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha during the last Monsoon session which is being considered for passage.
4. Apart from these, while there hasn't been any official confirmation regarding new legislations, specific reports have suggested these other bills to be discussed in the session: The Repealing and Amending Bill, 2022; The Post Office Bill, 2023; The Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2023; The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023.
What is a Special Session of Parliament?
Even though the term ‘special session’ is not explicitly enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Article 352 (Proclamation of Emergency) of the Constitution refers to a “special sitting of the House", which was inserted to ensure safeguards to the power of proclaiming Emergency in India.
The special sessions can be divided into two parts:
a. Proper special sessions- It happens with debates or discussions.
b. Midnight sessions- It happens without any debates.
Whenever discussing a special session of Parliament, remember two provisions: Art. 352 & 85(1) of the Indian Constitution.
Under art. 352, the President has the authority to convene a special sitting of the House if a Proclamation of Emergency is issued.
But if a Proclamation of Emergency is issued and Parliament is not in session, then one-tenth of Lok Sabha MPs can ask the President to convene a special meeting to disapprove the Emergency.
The President, who summons a regular Parliamentary session, can also summon the special session as per provisions of Article 85(1) of the Constitution.
Article 85(1) states: "The President shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he/she thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.”
This means that the Constitution mandates two sessions within a period of six months and doesn’t restrict the Parliament from meeting frequently apart from the regular sessions.
Art. 85(1) allows the President to summon the Parliament any number of times, as and when required. While the President issues the summons, it is the government, led by the PM, that calls the session into action.
Parliament lacks a fixed calendar for such Special Sessions. That is; it still lacks a fixed session schedule.
How many Special Sessions of Parliament have been called to date?
One must know that Article 352 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with the Proclamation of Emergency, specifies a “special sitting of the House”.
Until now, there have been many instances of special sessions of Parliament being called.
The first-ever special session of the Parliament was convened on August 14th and 15th in 1947 to celebrate India’s independence and mark the transfer of power from the Britishers.
Then, during the India-China war in 1962, a delegation led by the then Jan Sangh leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee called for the need to host a special session of the Parliament to discuss the war, to which PM Nehru agreed.
Most of the special sessions (total 3) have been called to celebrate days of national importance or significant milestones. For example, on 15th August 1972, a special session was called to mark the silver jubilee of India's Independence.
A special session of Rajya Sabha was held in February 1977 for two days to extend the President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu & Nagaland under the second provision of Article 356(4). Later, another two-day special session (158th Session) was held on 3rd & 4th June 1991, for approval of the President’s Rule in Haryana, under the proviso to article 356(3).
A midnight session was called in 1992 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the 'Quit India Movement'.
On 15 August 1997, a midnight session was convened to mark 50 years of Indian independence.
During the UPA rule, a special session of Lok Sabha was called in July 2008 for a trust vote after the Left parties withdrew support from the Manmohan Singh government.
On 30th June 2017, the Modi government called for a joint midnight session of both houses to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST), calling it the biggest indirect tax reform since Independence.
Please note that this was the first special session of the Parliament where a bill was discussed.
According to details in a Lok Sabha bulletin, the special session’s purpose is to celebrate the Parliament of India's rich heritage & reaffirm the goal of advancing 'Bharat' into a developed nation by 2047. It will be interesting to note the further developments taking place in this special session. So, stay tuned!