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Tussle over the election of Maharashtra Assembly Speaker

Context:

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government are locked in a tussle over the election of the Speaker of the Assembly.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Legislature)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Speaker of the Legislative Assembly
  2. Election and Term of Office of the Speaker
  3. About the issue with election of Maharashtra’s Assembly Speaker
  4. Rules in states and Constitution regarding election of the Speaker

Speaker of the Legislative Assembly

The presiding officer of the state legislative assembly is also known as the Speaker who is elected by the members of the assembly.

The members of the assembly also elect the Deputy Speaker.

All the Powers and Functions etc., of a Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly, are akin to that of the Speaker of Lok Sabha.

Speaker of Lok Sabha

  • The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha (Or the Legislative Assemblies of the States), and its representative and his/her decision in any Parliamentary matter is final.
  • He is the guardian of powers and privileges of the members, apart from being the principal spokesman of the House.
  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha derives his powers and duties from three sources:
    • The Constitution of India,
    • The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha, and
    • Parliamentary Conventions (residuary powers that are unwritten or unspecified in the Rules).
  • Usually, a member belonging to the ruling party is elected Speaker. The process has evolved over the years where the ruling party nominates its candidate after informal consultations with leaders of other parties and groups in the House.
  • This convention ensures that once elected, the Speaker enjoys the respect of all sections of the House.

Election and Term of Office of the Speaker

  • The Speaker of the lower house is chosen by the members of lower house from among themselves, after the first meeting, by a simple majority of members present and voting in the Lower house.
  • Although there are no specific qualifications prescribed for being elected the Speaker, an understanding of the Constitution and the laws of the country is considered a major asset for the holder of the Office of the Speaker.
  • The Speaker of lower house generally remains in office during the life of lower house. However, to remain in office, he/she needs to remain a member of the Lower house.
  • Whenever the Lower house is dissolved, its speaker continues to remain in office until immediately before the first meeting of lower house after it is reconstituted.

About the issue with election of Maharashtra’s Assembly Speaker

  • More than two years since the Maharashtra Assembly was constituted, a need has arisen to elect a speaker. The post fell vacant in February 2021, after the Speaker resigned and the Deputy Speaker conducted the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly.
  • In December 2021, the state Cabinet took the decision to hold the Speaker’s election and communicated it to the Governor. However, the Governor was examining the constitutionality of the amendments made by the Rules Committee of the state legislature in order to conduct the election of the Speaker by voice vote instead of secret ballot.
  • The Maharashtra Government argues that the amendments are constitutionally sound, and that the legislature had followed all required procedures while making the amendments.

Rules in states and Constitution regarding election of the Speaker

  • Article 178 of the Constitution states: “Every Legislative Assembly of a State shall, as soon as may be, choose two members of the Assembly to be respectively Speaker and Deputy Speaker thereof and, so often as the office of Speaker or Deputy Speaker becomes vacant, the Assembly shall choose another member to be Speaker or Deputy Speaker, as the case may be.”
  • The Constitution does not specify the process of holding these elections; that is left to the state legislatures. It also does not set a timeframe other than to say the elections should be held “as soon as may be”.
  • As per Rule 6 of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Rules, “The Governor shall fix a date for the holding of the election and the Secretary shall send to every member notice of the date so fixed.” A former Secretary of the state Assembly said the election of the Speaker can take place only after the Governor fixes the date for it.
  • Some states lay down timeframes:
    • In Haryana for example, the election of the Speaker must be held as soon as possible after the Assembly election, and the Deputy Speaker must be elected within another seven days.
    • In Uttar Pradesh, the Speaker’s election is required to be held within 15 days if the post falls vacant during the term of the Assembly.

-Source: Indian Express

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October 2022
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