In India, one of the common threads that run through many of the corruption scandals is the issue of conflict of interest i.e. public officials taking policy decisions based on their personal interest. For example, Shashi Tharoor in the IPL controversy or Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh Housing Society scam. Many countries take measures to minimize conflict of interest of its MPs by regulating membership of parliamentarians in Committees, making it mandatory for them to declare pecuniary interest, and restricting employment both during and after completion of tenure. For example, the US Senate has a detailed Code of Official Conduct that provides guidelines on conflict of interest. India also has some measures in place to minimize conflict of interest. These are codified in the Code of Conduct for Ministers, Code of Conduct for Members of the Rajya Sabha, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and Handbook for Members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Every Rajya Sabha MP has to declare his or her interest (along with assets and liabilities). He has to declare five pecuniary interests: remunerative directorship, remunerated activity, majority shareholding, paid consultancy and professional engagement. Lok Sabha MPs can object to another MP joining a parliamentary committee on grounds that he has personal, pecuniary or direct interest. (For more details, see PRS note on Conflict of Interest Issues in Parliament). On December 1, 2010, PRS held its annual Conference on Effective Legislatures. One of the topics discussed was MPs and Conflict of Interest: Issues and Resolution. Panelists included D Raja, Prakash Javdekar and Supriya Sule. Issues such as requirement for transparency, expertise of legislators, election of honest legislators, and ethical media were discussed. The issues that were raised during the discussion are summarised in the PRS Summary of Proceedings from the Conference.
Discussion on the first no-confidence motion of the 17th Lok Sabha began today. No-confidence motions and confidence motions are trust votes, used to test or demonstrate the support of Lok Sabha for the government in power. Article 75(3) of the Constitution states that the government is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. This means that the government must always enjoy the support of a majority of the members of Lok Sabha. Trust votes are used to examine this support. The government resigns if a majority of members support a no-confidence motion, or reject a confidence motion.
So far, 28 no-confidence motions (including the one being discussed today) and 11 confidence motions have been discussed. Over the years, the number of such motions has reduced. The mid-1960s and mid-1970s saw more no-confidence motions, whereas the 1990s saw more confidence motions.
Figure 1: Trust votes in Parliament
Note: *Term shorter than 5 years; **6-year term.
Source: Statistical Handbook 2021, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; PRS.
The no-confidence motion being discussed today was moved on July 26, 2023. A motion of no-confidence is moved with the support of at least 50 members. The Speaker has the discretion to allot time for discussion of the motion. The Rules of Procedure state that the motion must be discussed within 10 days of being introduced. This year, the no-confidence motion was discussed 13 calendar days after introduction. Since the introduction of the no-confidence motion on July 26, 12 Bills have been introduced and 18 Bills have been passed by Lok Sabha. In the past, on four occasions, the discussion on no-confidence motions began seven days after their introduction. On these occasions, Bills and other important issues were debated before the discussion on the no-confidence motion began.
Figure 2: Members rise in support of the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha