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S.noContents
1.Introduction
2.What is Suspension?
3.What is Dismissal?
4.Decoding the Differences between Suspension and Dismissal in the Indian Parliament
5.Legal Statutes Involving Suspension and Dismissal
6.Case Laws
7.Conclusion

Introduction

To be known as the World’s Largest and Fastest Growing Democracy isn’t as easy as it seems to be on paper. The daily reports and the Analysis would present the Nation to be at the zenith of its Democratic Practices, but deep down, are some rooted issues which are highlighted quite scarcely

The halls of Parliament are often filled with heated debates, passionate arguments, and fiery rhetoric. However, amidst all the chaos, there is one thing that is essential for maintaining order and decorum – the power to suspend or dismiss a member.

The functioning of a parliament or legislative assembly is essential for any democracy. It is the place where representatives of people sit together to discuss and make laws for the welfare of the country. But what happens when the power to suspend or dismiss a member is abused? What happens when the disciplinary mechanism is used as a tool to suppress dissent or opposition? These questions have become increasingly relevant in recent times, as lawmakers around the world grapple with issues of free speech, political correctness, and political correctness gone wrong.

In such cases, the speaker or the presiding officer of the house has the power to take action against the errant members by suspending or dismissing them from the house. This article aims to discuss the difference between suspension and dismissal and their relevance in parliamentary proceedings.

The power to suspend or dismiss a member is derived from the rules and procedures of the house, as well as the Constitution in some cases. The presiding officer of the house, such as the Speaker in the UK or the Lok Sabha in India, is typically responsible for enforcing disciplinary actions.

Recently, in the Indian parliament, several opposition MPs were suspended for their unruly behaviour during the monsoon session. The speaker suspended them for the remaining period of the session, which led to a controversy over the extent of the speaker’s powers to suspend members. This incident once again highlighted the need to understand the difference between suspension and dismissal.

What is Suspension?

Suspension means to bar a member from attending the house proceedings for a specific period. The presiding officer of the house has the power to suspend a member if they violate the rules of the house or indulges in any disruptive behaviour. The power to suspend a member is derived from Article 105(2) of the Indian Constitution[1], which grants each house of parliament the power to punish its members for contempt or disorderly conduct. The rules and procedures of the house further elaborate on the circumstances under which a member can be suspended.

According to Rule 373 of the Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business[2], a member can be suspended for any of the following reasons:

  • Continuous disregard for the authority of the Chair
  • Wilful obstruction of the business of the house
  • Use of unparliamentary language or making defamatory remarks
  • Display placards or shout slogans in the house
  • Physical attack or assault on another member or a member of the house staff

Similarly, Rule 256 of the Rajya Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business[3] provides for the suspension of a member for any of the following reasons:

  • Gross disorderly conduct
  • Wilful obstruction of the business of the house
  • Refusal to obey the Chair’s order
  • Use of unparliamentary language or making defamatory remarks
  • Display placards or shout slogans in the house

Once a member has been suspended, he or she is barred from attending any meetings of the house or any committee of which he or she may be a member. The member is also not allowed to enter the parliamentary premises during the period of suspension.

The period of suspension can vary depending on the severity of the offence and the discretion of the presiding officer of the house. In some cases, a member may be suspended for a few days or weeks, while in other cases, the suspension may last for the entire duration of the session.

It is important to note that a suspended member continues to be a member of the house, and his or her seat is not declared vacant. However, during the period of suspension, the member is not entitled to receive any salary or allowance from the parliament.

What is Dismissal?

In the Indian Parliament, dismissal refers to the expulsion of a member from the house. It is a severe disciplinary action that is taken when a member has committed a serious offence that is considered to be a breach of the privilege of the house.

The power to dismiss a member is derived from Article 105(3) of the Indian Constitution[4], which grants each house of parliament the power to expel its members for misconduct or breach of privilege. The rules and procedures of the house further elaborate on the circumstances under which a member can be dismissed.

According to Rule 374 of the Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business[5], a member can be dismissed for any of the following reasons:

  • Breach of the privileges of the house
  • Refusal to obey the Chair’s order
  • Wilful disregard of the authority of the Chair
  • Use of unparliamentary language or making defamatory remarks
  • Physical attack or assault on another member or a member of the house staff

Similarly, Rule 256 of the Rajya Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business[6] provides for the dismissal of a member for any of the following reasons:

  • Breach of the privileges of the house
  • Refusal to obey the Chair’s order
  • Wilful disregard of the authority of the Chair
  • Use of unparliamentary language or making defamatory remarks
  • Physical attack or assault on another member or a member of the house staff

Once a member has been dismissed, his or her seat is declared vacant, and a by-election is held to fill the vacancy. The member is also not eligible to contest any by-elections for the remainder of the term of the house. It is important to note that the power to dismiss a member is a discretionary power of the house, and is exercised only in the most extreme cases. The decision to dismiss a member is taken by a vote of the house and requires the support of a majority of the members present and voting.

Dismissal stands to be a severe disciplinary action that is used in the Indian Parliament to maintain discipline and uphold the privilege of the house. The power to dismiss a member is derived from the Constitution and the rules and procedures of the house and is exercised only in the most extreme cases. The decision to dismiss a member requires the support of a majority of the members present and voting, and the seat of the dismissed member is declared vacant.

Decoding the Differences between Suspension and Dismissal in the Indian Parliament

Suspension and dismissal are two different disciplinary actions that can be taken against a member of the Indian Parliament for breach of privilege or misconduct. While both actions involve the removal of a member from the house, there are significant differences between the two.

  • Meaning and duration: Suspension refers to the temporary removal of a member from the house for a specific period, while dismissal refers to the permanent expulsion of a member from the house.
  • Severity: Suspension is a less severe disciplinary action than dismissal. Suspension is used to maintain discipline and order in the house and to deter members from engaging in misconduct. Dismissal, on the other hand, is a more severe disciplinary action that is taken only in the most extreme cases of misconduct or breach of privilege.
  • Process: The process for suspension and dismissal is also different. In the case of suspension, the Speaker or the Chairman of the house can order the member to withdraw from the house for a specific period. The decision to suspend a member can also be taken by the house, based on a motion moved by another member. The decision to dismiss a member, on the other hand, can only be taken by the house, and requires the support of a majority of the members present and voting.
  • Duration of the process: The process of suspension is usually quicker than that of dismissal. In most cases, the decision to suspend a member is taken on the same day as the incident of misconduct or breach of privilege. The process of dismissal, on the other hand, is more time-consuming and requires a more detailed inquiry into the conduct of the member.
  • Consequences: The consequences of suspension and dismissal are also different. In the case of suspension, the member is not allowed to attend the house for a specific period but retains his or her membership in the house. In the case of dismissal, the member loses his or her membership in the house, and the seat is declared vacant. The dismissed member is also not eligible to contest any by-elections for the remainder of the term of the house.
  • Effect on the member’s reputation: Suspension and dismissal also have different implications for the reputation of the member. While suspension may be seen as a minor blemish on the member’s record, dismissal is a severe strain on the member’s reputation and can have serious consequences for his or her political career.
  • Precedence: Suspension is a more common disciplinary action than dismissal in the Indian Parliament. Dismissal is used only in the most extreme cases of misconduct or breach of privilege, while the suspension is used to maintain discipline and order in the house.

While both suspension and dismissal are disciplinary actions that can be taken against a member of the Indian Parliament, there are significant differences between the two. Suspension is a less severe disciplinary action than dismissal and is used to maintain discipline and order in the house. Dismissal is a more severe disciplinary action that is taken only in the most extreme cases of misconduct or breach of privilege. The process and consequences of suspension and dismissal are also different, and the implications for the reputation of the member are also different.

Their Similarities

Although suspension and dismissal differ in severity and the decision-making process, they share some similarities.

  • Both are disciplinary actions taken against members who violate the rules and regulations of the house.
  • Both can be used to maintain the decorum and dignity of the house.
  • Both affect the rights and privileges of the members concerned.

The power to suspend a member is derived from the rules and procedures of the house. In India, the power to suspend a member of parliament is given to the speaker under Rule 374 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha[7]. Similarly, in the UK, the power to suspend a member of the House of Commons is given to the speaker under Standing Order No. 44[8]. The rules and procedures of the house also provide for the procedure of suspension, including the duration of the suspension and the appeal process.

The power to dismiss a member is derived from the constitution and the rules of the house. In India, Article 102 of the Constitution[9] provides for the grounds for disqualification of a member of parliament.

The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959[10], provides for some exemptions from disqualification, but the power to dismiss a member is subject to the Constitution. Similarly, in the UK, the power to dismiss a member of the House of Commons

There have been several legal judgments and case laws related to the power of suspension and dismissal in parliamentary proceedings. In 2019, the Supreme Court of India upheld the power of the speaker to suspend a member under Rule 374 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. The court also held that the decision of the speaker to suspend a member cannot be questioned in a court of law, as it falls within the scope of the internal proceedings of the house.

Similarly, in the UK, the House of Commons Standards Committee recommended the suspension of a member of parliament for seven days for using derogatory language towards a fellow member in 2020. The recommendation was accepted by the house, and the member was suspended for the said period.

Case Laws Pertaining to the Provisions of Suspension vs Dismissal in Parliament

Certainly! The power to suspend or dismiss a member of parliament is a crucial aspect of parliamentary proceedings, and several famous case laws have helped to define the scope and limitations of this power. Let us take a closer look at some of these case laws.

Subramanian Swamy v. Raju (2011)[11]

In this case, Subramanian Swamy, a member of the Rajya Sabha, was suspended for his alleged derogatory remarks against the Prime Minister of India. Swamy challenged his suspension in the Supreme Court, arguing that the power to suspend a member should not be used as a tool to stifle dissenting voices.

The Supreme Court, while upholding Swamy’s suspension, held that the power to suspend a member is an essential component of the disciplinary mechanism of the house. The court also observed that the power to suspend should be exercised judiciously and with caution, and should not be used as a tool to suppress dissent or opposition.

Michael Martin MP (2009)

In the UK, the Speaker of the House of Commons has the power to suspend a member for disorderly conduct. In 2009, Michael Martin, the Speaker at the time, suspended a member of parliament for calling him a “little Hitler.”

The member challenged his suspension, arguing that the Speaker had exceeded his authority. However, the courts upheld the Speaker’s power to suspend a member for disorderly conduct and rejected the member’s challenge

Jeremy Corbyn MP (2020)

In 2020, Jeremy Corbyn, a former leader of the UK Labour Party, was suspended from the party for his response to a report on anti-Semitism within the party. Corbyn had suggested that the issue had been overstated for political reasons. The suspension sparked a controversy, with some members of the party supporting Corbyn and others calling for his expulsion. Eventually, after an internal investigation, Corbyn’s suspension was lifted, and he was readmitted to the party.

This case highlights the importance of the disciplinary mechanisms within political parties and the need to balance the right to free speech with the need to maintain party discipline.

Lok Sabha v. Re. Vijay Kumar Malhotra (2006)[12]

In this case, the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament) suspended Vijay Kumar Malhotra, a member of parliament, for his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal. Malhotra challenged his suspension in the Delhi High Court, arguing that the power to suspend a member was arbitrary and violated his fundamental rights.

The Delhi High Court rejected Malhotra’s challenge, holding that the power to suspend a member was a necessary component of the disciplinary mechanism of the house. The court also observed that the power to suspend was subject to judicial review but only on limited grounds.

These case laws highlight the importance of the power to suspend or dismiss a member in maintaining discipline and decorum within parliamentary proceedings. However, it is equally important to ensure that the power is exercised judiciously and in accordance with the rules and procedures of the house.

Conclusion

In conclusion, suspension and dismissal are two disciplinary actions that are used in parliamentary proceedings to maintain decorum and discipline. Suspension is a temporary punishment, and the power to suspend a member is derived from the rules and procedures of the house. Dismissal is a permanent punishment, and the power to dismiss a member is derived from the Constitution and the rules of the House. Although the two punishments differ in severity and decision-making process, they share some similarities, and both affect the rights and privileges of the members concerned.

In the UK, for example, the power to suspend a member for disorderly conduct has been used to punish members for everything from shouting in the house to using derogatory language. In some cases, the punishment has been seen as excessive or arbitrary, leading to calls for reform of the disciplinary process.

Similarly, in India, the power to suspend a member has been used to punish members for everything from sleeping in the house to making controversial statements. Some have argued that the power to suspend is being used to stifle dissent and opposition, leading to concerns about the erosion of democratic values.

Of course, not all suspensions and dismissals are controversial or unjustified. In many cases, these disciplinary actions are necessary for maintaining order and decorum within parliamentary proceedings. But it is essential to ensure that the power is not being abused and that the rights and privileges of members are not being unduly curtailed.

In conclusion, the power to suspend or dismiss a member of parliament is a crucial aspect of parliamentary proceedings, but it is equally important to ensure that the power is being exercised judiciously and in accordance with the rules and procedures of the house. As lawmakers continue to grapple with issues of free speech, political correctness, and the role of the disciplinary mechanism in maintaining order and decorum, it is essential to strike a balance between discipline and democracy. Recent legal judgments and case laws have upheld the power of the presiding officer of the house to suspend a member and the power of the house as a whole to dismiss a member in appropriate cases. It is essential to maintain the decorum and dignity of the house, and the power to suspend or dismiss a member should be exercised judiciously and in accordance with the rules and procedures of the house.


Endnotes:

  1. Constitution of India art. 105(2) (as amended by the Constitution (Forty-Fourth Amendment) Act, 1978)
  2. Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, Rule 373
  3. Rajya Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, Rule 256
  4. Constitution of India art. 105(3) (as amended by the Constitution (Forty-Fourth Amendment) Act, 1978)
  5. Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, Rule 374
  6. Rajya Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, Rule 256
  7. Lok Sabha Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, Rule 374
  8. Standing Orders of the House of Commons, Standing Order No. 44
  9. Constitution of India art. 102
  10. The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959, Act No. 10 of 1959 (India)
  11. Subramanian Swamy v. Raju, (2011) 6 SCC 617
  12. Lok Sabha Secretariat v. Re Vijay Kumar Malhotra, [2006] Delhi High Court 269

This article is authored by Rishaan Gupta, a 1st year Student at National Law University, Delhi.

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