In the ‘Indian politico-administrative system’, the Parliament occupies a central position and has a multifunctional role. It enjoys extensive powers and performs a variety of functions towards the fulfilment of its constitutionally expected role. Its powers and functions can be classified under the following heads:
The Constitution also empowers the Parliament to make laws on the subjects enumerated in the State List (which at present has 61 subjects, originally 66 subjects) under the following five abnormal circumstances:
The Parliament makes laws in a skeleton form and authorises the Executive to make detailed rules and regulations within the framework of the parent law. This is known as delegated legislation or executive legislation or subordinate legislation. Such rules and regulations are placed before the Parliament for its examination.
2. Executive Powers and Functions
The Constitution of India established a parliamentary form of government in which the Executive is responsible to the Parliament for its policies and acts. Hence, the Parliament exercises control over the Executive through question- hour, zero hour, half-an-hour discussion, short duration discussion, calling attention motion, adjournment motion, no-confidence motion, censure motion and other discussions. It also supervises the activities of the Executive with the help of its committees like committee on government assurance, committee on subordinate legislation, committee on petitions, etc.
The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament in general and to the Lok Sabha in particular. As a part of collective responsibility, there is individual responsibility, that is, each minister is individually responsible for the efficient administration of the ministry under his charge. This means that they continue in office so long as they enjoy the confidence of the majority members in the Lok Sabha. In other words, the council of ministers can be removed from office by the Lok Sabha by passing a no-confidence motion. The Lok Sabha can also express lack of confidence in the government in the following ways:
3. Financial Powers and Functions
No tax can be levied or collected and no expenditure can be incurred by the Executive except under the authority and with the approval of Parliament. Hence, the budget is placed before the Parliament for its approval. The enactment of the budget by the Parliament legalises the receipts and expenditure of the government for the ensuing financial year.
The Parliament also scrutinises government spending and financial performance with the help of its financial committees. These include public accounts committee, estimates committee and committee on public undertakings. They bring out the cases of illegal, irregular, unauthorised, improper usage and wastage and extravagance in public expenditure.
Therefore, the parliamentary control over the Executive in financial matters operates in two stages:
(a) budgetary control, that is, control before the appropriation of grants through the enactment of the budget; and
(b) post-budgetary control, that is, control after the appropriation of grants through the three financial committees.
The budget is based on the principle of annuality, that is, the Parliament grants money to the government for one financial year. If the granted money is not spent by the end of the financial year, then the balance expires and returns to the Consolidated Fund of India. This practice is known as the ‘rule of lapse’. It facilitates effective financial control by the Parliament as no reserve funds can be built without its authorisation. However, the observance of this rule leads to heavy rush of expenditure towards the close of the financial year. This is popularly called as ‘March Rush’.
4. Constituent Powers and Functions
The Parliament is vested with the powers to amend the Constitution by way of addition, variation or repeal of any provision. The major part of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament with special majority, that is, a majority (that is, more than 50 per cent) of the total membership of each House and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting in each House. Some other provisions of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament with simple majority, that is, a majority of the members present and votingin each House of Parliament. Only a few provisions of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament (by special majority) and with the consent of at least half of the state Legislatures (by simple majority). However, the power to initiate the process of the amendment of the Constitution (in all the three cases) lies exclusively in the hands of the Parliament and not the state legislature. There is only one exception, that is, the state legislature can pass a resolution requesting the Parliament for the creation or abolition of the legislative council in the state. Based on the resolution, the Parliament makes an act for amending the Constitution to that effect. To sum up, the Parliament can amend the Constitution in three ways:
5. Judicial Powers and Functions
The judicial powers and functions of the Parliament include the following:
(a) It can impeach the President for the violation of the Constitution.
(b) It can remove the Vice-President from his office.
(c) It can recommend the removal of judges (including chief justice) of the Supreme Court and the high courts, chief election commissioner, comptroller and auditor general to the president.
(d) It can punish its members or outsiders for the breach of its privileges or its contempt.
6. Electoral Powers and Functions
The Parliament participates in the election of the President (along with the state legislative assemblies) and elects the Vice-President. The Lok Sabha elects its Speaker and Deputy Speaker, while the Rajya Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.
The Parliament is also authorised to make laws to regulate the elections to the offices of President and Vice-President, to both the Houses of Parliament and to both the Houses of state legislature. Accordingly, Parliament enacted the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election Act (1952), the Representation of People Act (1950), the Representation of People Act (1951), etc.
7. Other Powers and Functions
The various other powers and functions of the Parliament include:
(a) It serves as the highest deliberative body in the country. It discusses various issues of national and international significance.
(b) It approves all the three types of emergencies (national, state and financial) proclaimed by the President.
(c) It can create or abolish the state legislative councils on the recommendation of the concerned state legislative assemblies.
(d) It can increase or decrease the area, alter the boundaries and change the names of states of the Indian Union.
(e) It can regulate the organisation and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and high courts and can establish a common high court for two or more states.