Summoning the House

O Joy Singh *

Monsoon Assembly Session for the year 2018 at Manipur Legislative Assembly Building, Imphal on July 20 and 21 2018
Monsoon Assembly Session 2018 at Manipur Legislative Assembly Building, Imphal on July 20 2018 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

The Constitution provides the President of the Union or the Governor of a State, as the case may be, the right to summon the legislature. He can summon the legislature at any time; but the Constitution requires that not more than six months lapse between the day appointed for first meeting of a session and the day of the last meeting of previous session.

The legislature is summoned by an order under the signature of the Executive Head of the State published in a notification in the Official Gazette, time and place of meeting are specified in the notification. Rules of Procedure in Manipur Assembly provides that the Assembly shall be summoned by the Governor from time to time to meet at such time and place as may appoint. The Secretary shall issue summons to each member specifying the date and place for a session of the House at least 15 clear days before the date so appointed.

When a session is called at short notice or emergent summons may not be issued to each member separately but an announcement of the date and place of the session shall be published in the Gazette and made in the press, and members may be informed by telegram. A member who has not already made and subscribe an oath or affirmation, in pursuance of Art. 188 may do so at the commencement of a sitting of the House, as the Speaker may direct, on any day after giving previous notice in writing to the Secretary. The members shall sit in such order as the Speaker may determine.

Apart from the members, intimation of a session is also given to persons who, although not members of the legislature, are entitled under the Constitution to take part in its deliberation, e. g. Ministers who are not members of the House concerned, and the Advocate General of the State.

Interesting question whether, once a House has been summoned to meet on a particular date, the date can be changed by a subsequent notification, arose in the Rajya Sabha in 1953.

On 28th May the Rajya Sabha was summoned to meet on 17th August 1953. By a subsequent notification purporting to supersede the previous notification, 5th August 1953, the House was summoned to meet on 24th August. A protest was made by the members of Rajya Sabha that the House should be treated with more consideration.

It was also argued that the President had no authority to alter the date once he had issued the summons. The Government considered that the President had the right to alter the date on the ground that authority which could summon a meeting had also the power to cancel the notice and summon a meeting on alter date. Such a change of date of summon was also made in West Bengal in July 1956, in Bihar in 1973.

Such similar change of date of summon was also made in Manipur in 1981:The Manipur Legislative Assembly was summoned to meet on 12th February 1981and by a subsequent notification purporting to supersede the previous notification without any reason the House was summoned to meet on 18th February 1981.

On the day when the address of the Governor was announced in the House by the Speaker instantly, the matter was raised and protested by Shri O. Joy Singh and Dr. L. Chandramani Singh, members of the Opposition. It was argued that the Governor had no authority to alter the date of summons of the House once issued and it had created a parliamentary precedent in the legislative history of Manipur as well of the country.

The Governor explained in the House that he acted on the advice of the Council of Ministers for the sake of more convenience . All members of the opposition protested and staged walk- out from the House. After that the Governor made the address.

The general proposition that the authority which can convene a meeting has also authority to postpone or alter the date of the meeting does not appear to be correct so far as the ordinary law of the meeting is concerned. It was held in Smith vs. Paringa Mines (1956) 2 ch., p. 193, that when a meeting is properly convened by the directors of the company for a certain date, they have no power to postpone the meeting to another date.

In the British Parliament the sovereign has the authority to defer or accelerate by subsequent proclamation the date fixed for a meeting of Parliament. The authority is, however, derived from the Meetings of Parliament Acts, 1797, and the Prorogation Act, 1867. Various other Acts authorise the Sovereign to summon Parliament on date other than those previously fixed in a National emergency.

If the general proposition mentioned above are correct, there would have been no necessity for authorising the Sovereign to summon Parliament by special enactment.

The Indian Constitution says that the President and the Governor in the case of State Legislative Bodies shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament and State Legislature at such time and place as they thinks fit. But no power is expressly given to the President and Governors to postpone or accelerate a meeting. In the absence of such power it is doubtful whether the President and the Governors have the power to alter the date of meeting once they have summoned it for a particular date, even if the President or the Governor has the power, it is submitted that summoning of a House should not be made a light affairs which a frequent or hasty change of date may imply.

Only in the case of a national emergency or grave circumstances may the dates, once fixed, be altered. The same consideration will apply in the case of summoning of Union Parliament and State Legislatures. Rules of Procedure of Manipur Assembly provides the Speaker shall determine the time when a sitting of the House shall be adjourned sine die or to a particular day, or to an hour or part of the same day. Further, it also provides where the House is adjourned sine die ten days notice shall ordinarily given to members of the date on which the House shall be reassemble. However, the Speaker may call a sitting of the House for an earlier or later date than the date which it stands adjourned.

On 17th Aug Govt. had scheduled and made in the press to call the Manipur Assembly on 10th Aug 2018, which was adjourned sine die by the Speaker on 23rd July 2018 for discussion of some emergent public issue, specially for Frame Work Agreement etc. and it was postponed to 16th Aug. without notification. Surprisingly the Assembly Secretariat was not officially intimated for the process and notification of reassemble of the adjourned House and the Office of the Speaker was kept in dark of the proposed calling of the Assembly.

Again, on 14th Aug, 2018 it was made by the Govt. in the press that the proposed sitting of the Assembly rescheduled on 16th Aug. 2018 will not be held and the proposal for calling the Assembly for discussion of public issue is dropped for time being as there is no emergent need of it.

This is a humble attempt to discuss and highlight some ambiguity in the process and procedural lapses in the issue of calling an adjourned House for its reassemble in the interest of parliamentary system. Because, Assembly is the highest democratic institution of the State. It naturally mirrors the confidences, wishes, hopes, expectations and aspirations of its people.

Rules of Procedure provides the Speaker to call for the sitting of the reassemble of the adjourned House. Subject to the provision of the Rules the Speaker as regards the business of the government shall call the House.

The recent proposals of the Govt. which publicly announced for reassemble the adjourned House on 10th Aug. and 16th Aug were not officially communicated to the Assembly Secretariat for process and no notification was issued. The Office of the Speaker was kept into dark.

Later on, Govt. made in the press on 14th Aug. that Special Session will not be held as there is no need of emergent sitting of the House.

In view of the above, the recent decision of the Govt. made published to the press for calling Assembly for discussing emergent public issues would be in a very light affairs with frequent and hasty change of dates apply for some unseen agenda behind it, is unprecedented. It can, therefore, be not a regular feature and good practice which tantamount to lack of courtesy and respect to the House.

* O Joy Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 27, 2018.

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