Every ordinary bill has to pass through the following five stages in the Parliament before it finds a place on the Statute Book:
1. First Reading An ordinary bill can be introduced in either House of Parliament. Such a bill can be introduced either by a minister or by any other member. The member who wants to introduce the bill has to ask for the leave of the House. When the House grants leave to introduce the bill, the mover of the bill introduces it by reading its title and objectives. No discussion on the bill takes place at this stage. Later, the bill is published in the Gazette of India. If a bill is published in the Gazette before its introduction, leave of the House to introduce the bill is not necessary.18 The introduction of the bill and its publication in the Gazette constitute the first reading of the bill.
2. Second Reading During this stage, the bill receives not only the general but also the detailed scrutiny and assumes its final shape. Hence, it forms the most important stage in the enactment of a bill. In fact, this stage involves three more sub-stages, namely, stage of general discussion, committee stage and consideration stage.
(a) Stage of General Discussion The printed copies of the bill are distributed to all the members. The principles of the bill and its provisions are discussed generally, but the details of the bill are not discussed.
At this stage, the House can take any one of the following four actions:
(i) It may take the bill into consideration immediately or on some other fixed date;
(ii) It may refer the bill to a select committee of the House;
(iii) It may refer the bill to a joint committee of the two Houses; and
(iv) It may circulate the bill to elicit public opinion.
A Select Committee consists of members of the House where the bill has originated and a joint committee consists of members of both the Houses of Parliament.
(b) Committee Stage The usual practice is to refer the bill to a select committee of the House. This committee examines the bill thoroughly and in detail, clause by clause. It can also amend its provisions, but without altering the principles underlying it. After completing the scrutiny and discussion, the committee reports the bill back to the House.
(c) Consideration Stage The House, after receiving the bill from the select committee, considers the provisions of the bill clause by clause. Each clause is discussed and voted upon separately. The members can also move amendments and if accepted, they become part of the bill.
3. Third Reading At this stage, the debate is confined to the acceptance or rejection of the bill as a whole and no amendments are allowed, as the general principles underlying the bill have already been scrutinised during the stage of second reading. If the majority of members present and voting accept the bill, the bill is regarded as passed by the House. Thereafter, the bill is authenticated by the presiding officer of the House and transmitted to the second House for consideration and approval. A bill is deemed to have been passed by the Parliament only when both the Houses have agreed to it, either with or without amendments.
4. Bill in the Second House In the second House also, the bill passes through all the three stages, that is, first reading, second reading and third reading. There are four alternatives before this House:
(a) it may pass the bill as sent by the first house (ie, without amendments);
(b) it may pass the bill with amendments and return it to the first House for reconsideration;
(c) it may reject the bill altogether; and
(d) it may not take any action and thus keep the bill pending.
If the second House passes the bill without any amendments or the first House acceptsthe amendments suggested by the second House, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses and the same is sent to the president for his assent. On the other hand, if the first House rejects the amendments suggested by the second House or the second House rejects the bill altogether or the second House does not take any action for six months, a deadlock is deemed to have taken place. To resolve such a deadlock, the president can summon a joint sitting of the two Houses. If the majority of members present and voting in the joint sitting approves the bill, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses.
5. Assent of the President Every bill after being passed by both Houses of Parliament either singly or at a joint sitting, is presented to the president for his assent. There are three alternatives before the president:
(a) he may give his assent to the bill; or
(b) he may withhold his assent to the bill; or
(c) he may return the bill for reconsideration of the Houses.
If the president gives his assent to the bill, the bill becomes an act and is placed on the Statute Book. If the President withholds his assent to the bill, it ends and does not become an act. If the President returns the bill for reconsideration and if it is passed by both the Houses again with or without amendments and presented to the President for his assent, the president must give his assent to the bill. Thus, the President enjoys only a “suspensive veto.
Article 110 of the Constitution deals with the definition of money bills. It states that a bill is deemed to be a money bill if it contains ‘only’ provisions dealing with all or any of the following matters:
The Constitution lays down a special procedure for the passing of money bills in the Parliament. A money bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha and that too on the recommendation of the president. Every such bill is considered to be a government bill and can be introduced only by a minister.
After a money bill is passed by the Lok Sabha, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its consideration. The Rajya Sabha has restricted powers with regard to a money bill. It cannot reject or amend a money bill. It can only make the recommendations. It must return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, wither with or without recommendations. The Lok Sabha can either accept or reject all or any of the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha.
If the Lok Sabha accepts any recommendation, the bill is then deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the modified form. If the Lok Sabha does not accept any recommendation, the bill is then deemed to have passed by both the Houses in the form originally passed by the Lok Sabha without any change.
If the Rajya Sabha does not return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses in the form originally passed by the Lok Sabha. Thus, the Lok Sabha has more powers than Rajya Sabha with regard to a money bill. On the other hand, both the Houses have equal powers with regard to an ordinary bill.
Finally, when a money bill is presented to the president, he may either give his assent to the bill or withhold his assent to the bill but cannot return the bill for reconsideration of the Houses. Normally, the president gives his assent to a money bill as it is introduced in the Parliament with his prior permission.