The functions and powers of the Indian Parliament

The functions and powers of the Indian Parliament can be divided into legislative, executive, financial and other categories.

Legislative Functions—

Basically the Parliament is a law-making body.

There are three lists – Union List, State List and the Concurrent List.

Only Parliament can make laws on the subjects mentioned in the Union List.

Along with the State Legislatures, the Parliament is empowered to make laws on the Concurrent List.

In case, both the Centre as well as the States makes a law on the subject mentioned in the Concurrent List then the central law prevails upon the state law if there is a clash between the two.

Any subject not mentioned in any list i.e. residuary powers are vested with the Parliament.

Thus the law making power of the Parliament is very wide.

It covers the Union List and Concurrent List and in certain circumstances even the State List also.


The Executive Functions—

In a parliamentary system of government there is a close relationship between the legislature and the executive.

And the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its acts.

The Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers are responsible to the Parliament individually as well as collectively.

The Parliament can dislodge a ministry by passing a vote of no-confidence or by refusing to endorse a confidence motion.

In India this has happened several times.

This happened in 1999 when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government lost the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha by just one vote and resigned.

But the no-confidence motion or the confidence motions are the extreme ways of maintaining the accountability of the Parliament over the executive.

They are employed in exceptional cases.

Parliament also maintains its control over executive in a routine manner through several ways.

Some of them are as follows:-

[1] The members of Parliament can ask questions and supplementary questions regarding any matters connected with the affairs of the Central Government.

The first hour of every working day of Parliament relates to the Question Hour in which the Ministers have to answer the questions raised by the members.

[2] If the members are not satisfied with the Government’s answer then they may demand separate discussion on the subject.

[3] The Parliament also exercises control over the executive through several motions.

For example calling attention notice or adjournment motion are such ways by which some recent matters of urgent public importance are raised.

[4] The Lok Sabha can express its lack of confidence in the executive by disapproving budget or money bill or even an ordinary bill.


Censure Motion

This motion implies severe indictment of the government; but it does not require resignation of the Council of Members.


The Financial Functions—

The Parliament is the custodian of the public money.

It controls the entire finance of the Central Government.

No money can be spent without its approval.

This approval may be taken before the actual spending or in rare cases after the spending.

The budget is approved by the Parliament every year.


The Electoral Functions—

The elected member of Parliament one members of the Electoral College for Presidential election. As such, they participate in the election of the President of India.

They elect the Vice-President.

The Lok Sabha elects its Speaker and Deputy Speaker and the Rajya Sabha elects its Deputy Chairman.


Power of Removal—

Certain high functionaries may be removed from office on the initiative of the Parliament.

The President of India may be removed through the process of impeachment.

The judges of Supreme Court and of High Courts can be removed by an order of the President, which may be issued only if a resolution of their removal is passed by both Houses of Parliament by special majority.


Functions Regarding the Amendment of the Constitution Structure of Government—

Most of the parts of the Constitution can be amended by the Parliament by special majority.

But certain provisions only be amended by the Parliament with the approval of States.

However India being a federal State, the amending power of the Parliament is highly limited.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Parliament cannot change the basic structure of the Constitution.


Miscellaneous Functions—

Besides the above-mentioned functions, the Parliaments also performs a variety of other functions.

Some of them are as follows: –

[1] While it is the power of the President to declare Emergency, the Parliament approves all such Proclamations of Emergency. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have to approve the Proclamation.

[2] Parliament may form a new State by separating the territory from any State or by uniting two or more States. It may also change the boundaries and the name of any State.

[3] Parliament may admit or establish new States in the Indian Union (Sikkim in 1975).

[4] The Parliament can abolish or create Legislative Councils in the States. This is done only on the request of concerned States Assemblies.