The results of General Election 2019 were declared last week concluding the process for electing the 17th Lok Sabha. Immediately after the results, the previous Lok Sabha was dissolved. The next couple of days will witness several key events such as swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha. In the first session, the newly elected MPs will take their oaths, the Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha will be elected, and the President will address a joint sitting of Parliament. In this blog, we explain the process and significance of the events that will follow in the days to come.
Key Events in the First Session of the 17th Lok Sabha
The Bharatiya Janta Party has emerged as the single largest party and the leader of the party will be sworn-in as the Prime Minister. As per Article 75(1) of the Constitution, the other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. The 91st Amendment to the Constitution limits the total size of the Council of Ministers to 15% of the total strength of the House (i.e., 81 Ministers). As per media reports, swearing-in of the Council of Ministers is scheduled for May 30, 2019.
How is the schedule for first session decided?
The 17th Lok Sabha will commence its first session in the first week of June. The exact date of commencement of the first session and the schedule of key events in the session, including the date of President’s address, is decided by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. This Committee will be set up after the swearing in of the Council of Ministers. The previous Lok Sabha had commenced on June 4, 2014 and its first session had six sitting days (June 4, 2014 to June 11, 2014).
Who presides over the first session?
Every proceeding of the House is presided by a Speaker. The Office of the Speaker becomes vacant immediately before the first meeting of a new Lok Sabha. Therefore, a temporary speaker, known as the pro-tem Speaker, is chosen from among the newly elected MPs. The pro-tem Speaker administers oath/affirmation to the newly elected members, and also presides over the sitting in which the new Speaker is elected. The office of the pro-tem Speaker ceases to exist when the new Speaker is elected.
How is the pro-tem speaker chosen?
Once the new government is elected, a list containing the names of the senior-most members of the House is prepared. The seniority is decided by total tenure as a member of either Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. The Prime Minister then identifies a Member from the list who acts as the Speaker pro-tem. Three other members are also identified before whom other members may take oath/affirmation.
How is the new Speaker chosen?
Any member may give notice of a motion that another Member be chosen as the Speaker of the House. The motions are then moved and voted upon. After the results are announced, the Speaker-elect is felicitated by leaders of all political parties, including the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. From then, the new Speaker takes over the proceedings of the House.
An understanding of the Constitution, the Rules of Procedure, and conventions of Parliament is considered a major asset for the Speaker. While this might indicate that a Speaker be one of the senior-most members of the House, this has not always been the norm. There have been occasions in the past where the Speaker of the House was a first-time MP. For instance, Mr. K.S. Hegde, the Speaker of the sixth Lok Sabha and Mr. Bal Ram Jakhar, the Speaker of the seventh Lok Sabha were both first time MPs
What is the role of the Speaker in the House?
The Speaker is central to the functioning of the legislature. The proceedings of the House are guided by the Rules of Procedure and the final authority for the interpretation and implementation of these rules rests with the Speaker. The Speaker is responsible for regulating the discussion in the House and maintaining order in the House. For instance, it is the Speaker’s discretion on whether to allow a member to raise a matter of public importance in the House. The Speaker can suspend a sitting member for obstructing the business of the House, or adjourn the House in case of major disorder.
The Speaker is also the chair of the Business Advisory Committee, which is responsible for deciding the business of the House and allocating time for the same. The Speaker also chairs the General Purposes Committee and the Rules Committee of the Lok Sabha and appoints the chairpersons of other committees amongst the members. In the past, Speakers have also been instrumental in strengthening the Committee system. Mr. Shivraj Patil, the Speaker of the 10th Lok Sabha, played a key role in the initiation of 17 Departmental Standing Committees, therefore strengthening Parliament’s control over the functioning of different ministries of the government.
Since the Speaker represents the entire House, the office of the Speaker is vested with impartiality and independence. The Constitution and the Rules of Procedure have prescribed guidelines for the Speaker’s office to ensure such impartiality and independence. Dr. N. Sanjiva Reddy, the Speaker of the fourth Lok Sabha, formally resigned from his political party as he was of the opinion that the Speaker belongs to the whole House and should therefore remain impartial. As per Article 100 of the Constitution, the Speaker does not exercise vote on any matter being voted upon, in the first instance. However, in case there’s a tie during the voting, the Speaker exercises her vote.
What does the President’s Address entail?
The election of the Speaker is followed by the President’s Address. Article 87 of the Constitution requires the President to address both Houses at the beginning of the first session after each general election. The President also addresses both the Houses at the beginning of the first session of each year. The President’s address highlights the initiatives of the government from the previous year, and mentions the policy priorities for the upcoming year. After the address, the ruling party moves a Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in both Houses of Parliament. In the Motion of Thanks, MPs may move amendments to the motion, which are then put to vote.
The President of India, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind will address Parliament in this first session of the 17th Lok Sabha. During the 16th Lok Sabha, the first President’s address was held on June 9, 2014 and the last time he addressed Parliament was on January 31, 2019 (highlights of this address can be read here).
Sources: The Constitution of India; Rules and Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha; Handbook on the Working of Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; The website of Parliament of India, Lok Sabha; The website of Office of the Speaker, Lok Sabha.
The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021 is listed for passage in Rajya Sabha today. It was passed by Lok Sabha last week. The Bill creates a regulatory framework for anti-doping rule violations in sports. It was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports, and some of their recommendations have been incorporated in the Bill passed by Lok Sabha.
Doping is the consumption of certain prohibited substances by athletes to enhance performance. Across the world, doping is regulated and monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which is an independent international agency established in 1999. WADA’s primary role is to develop, harmonise, and coordinate anti-doping regulations across all sports and countries. It does so by ensuring proper implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA Code) and its standards. In this blog post, we discuss the need of the framework proposed by the Bill, and give insights from the discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha.
Doping in India
Recently, two Indian athletes failed the doping test and are facing provisional suspension. In the past also, Indian athletes have been found in violation of anti-doping rules. In 2019, according to WADA, most of the doping rule violations were committed by athletes from Russia (19%), followed by Italy (18%), and India (17%). Most of the doping rule violations were committed in bodybuilding (22%), followed by athletics (18%), cycling (14%), and weightlifting (13%). In order to curb doping in sports, WADA requires all countries to have a framework regulating anti-doping activities managed by their respective National Anti-Doping Organisations.
Currently, doping in India is regulated by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), which was established in 2009 as an autonomous body under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. One issue with the existing framework is that the anti-doping rules are not backed by a legislation and are getting challenged in courts. Further, NADA is imposing sanctions on athletes without a statutory backing. Taking into account such instances, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2021) had recommended that the Department of Sports bring in an anti-doping legislation. Other countries such as the USA, UK, Germany, and Japan have enacted legislations to regulate anti-doping activities.
Framework proposed by the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021
The Bill seeks to constitute NADA as a statutory body headed by a Director General appointed by the central government. Functions of the Agency include planning, implementing and monitoring anti-doping activities, and investigating anti-doping rule violations. A National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel will be set up for determining consequences of anti-doping rule violations. This panel will consist of legal experts, medical practitioners, and retired athletes. Further, the Board will constitute an Appeal Panel to hear appeals against decisions of the Disciplinary Panel. Athletes found in violation of anti-doping rules may be subject to: (i) disqualification of results including forfeiture of medals, points, and prizes, (ii) ineligibility to participate in a competition or event for a prescribed period, (iii) financial sanctions, and (iv) other consequences as may be prescribed. Consequences for team sports will be specified by regulations.
Initially, the Bill did not have provisions for protected athletes but after the Standing Committee’s recommendation, provisions for such athletes have been included in the Bill. Protected persons will be specified by the central government. As per the WADA Code, a protected person is someone: (i) below the age of 16, or (ii) below the age of 18 and has not participated in any international competition in an open category, or (iii) lacks legal capacity as per their country’s legal framework
Issues and discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha
During the discussion on the Bill, members highlighted several issues. We discuss these below-
Independence of NADA
One of the issues highlighted was the independence of the Director General of NADA. WADA requires National Doping Organisations to be independent in their functioning as they may experience external pressure from their governments and national sports bodies which could compromise their decisions. First, under the Bill, the qualifications of the Director General are not specified and are left to be notified through Rules. Second, the central government may remove the Director General from the office on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity or “such other ground”. Leaving these provisions to the discretion of the central government may affect the independence of NADA.
Privacy of athletes
NADA will have the power to collect certain personal data of athletes such as: (a) sex or gender, (ii) medical history, and (iii) whereabout information of athletes (for out of competition testing and collection of samples). MPs expressed concerns about maintaining the privacy of athletes. The Union Sports Minister in his response, assured the House that all international privacy standards will be followed during collection and sharing of data. Data will be shared with only relevant authorities.
Under the Bill, NADA will collect and use personal data of athletes in accordance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information. It is one of the eight ‘mandatory’ standards of the World Anti-Doping Code. One of the amendments moved by the Union Sports Minister removed the provision relating to compliance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information.
Establishing more testing laboratories across states
Currently India has one National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL). MPs raised the demand to establish testing laboratories across states to increase testing capacity. The Minister responded by saying that if required in the future, the government will establish more testing laboratories across states. Further, in order to increase testing capacity, private labs may also be set up. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) also emphasised the need to open more dope testing laboratories, preferably one in each state, to cater to the need of the country and become a leader in the South East Asia region in the areas of anti-doping science and education.
In August, 2019 a six-month suspension was imposed on NDTL for not complying with International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) by WADA. The suspension was extended for another six months in July, 2020 due to non-conformity with ISL. The second suspension was to remain in effect until the Laboratory complies with ISL. However, the suspension was extended for another six months in January, 2021 as COVID-19 impacted WADA’s ability to conduct an on-site assessment of the Laboratory. In December, 2021 WADA reinstated the accreditation of NDTL.
Several athletes in India are not aware about the anti-doping rules and the prohibited substances. Due to lack of awareness, they end up consuming prohibited substances through supplements. MPs highlighted the need to conduct more awareness campaigns around anti-doping. The Minister informed the House that in the past one year, NADA has conducted about 100 hybrid workshops relating to awareness on anti-doping. The Bill will enable NADA to conduct more awareness campaigns and research in anti-doping. Further, the central government is working with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to test dietary supplements consumed by athletes.
While examining the Bill, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) recommended several measures to improve and strengthen the antidoping ecosystem in the country. These measures include: (i) enforcing regulatory action towards labelling and use of ‘dope-free’ certified supplements, and (ii) mandating ‘dope-free’ certification by independent bodies for supplements consumed by athletes.