With the Delhi High Court asking the Central government on Wednesday to explain its stand on a petition that claimed keeping the post of Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha vacant is a violation of Article 93 of the Constitution, the issue is once again in the spotlight.
Petitioner Pawan Reley pointed out that the position had been vacant for the last 830 days.
Congress’s floor leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “It is a constitutional mandated position and not a ceremonial one. During each session, the Congress has demanded that the election to the post be held, but our demands have been ignored”.
Senior TMC leader Derek O’ Brien pointed out that the longest time that this post had remained vacant was in the 12th Lok Sabha and even then on the 59th sitting of Parliament, election to the post was held. “Modi-Shah is dismantling every institution, including Parliament. We have been screaming ourselves hoarse. Angry. Sad,” he said.
Congress Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha Kodikunnil Suresh said that by convention, this post went to the Opposition. “During the Budget Session of Parliament, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla contracted COVID-19. The panel of chairpersons are not equipped to handle the job,” he noted.
As of now there are nine members who are part of the Panel of Chairpersons from the BJP, DMK, YSR Congress, BJD, TMC and the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
A Deputy Speaker enjoys the same legislative powers as the Speaker. And in absence of the Speaker because of death, illness or any other reason, the Deputy Speaker also assumes the administrative powers.
Soon after the 2019 general election, the government had made some effort to fill the position. It approached the YSR Congress, who turned down the offer since it would have been difficult to align their protest against the government for not according special status to Andhra Pradesh while occupying the post.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi and his Deputy in the Lok Sabha Arjun Ram Meghwal were both not available for their comment.
‘Not the Speaker’s job’
Mr. Birla had said that it is for the House to elect a Deputy Speaker and it’s not the Speaker’s job.
BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, who is a member of the Panel of Chairpersons, said the Lok Sabha functioning was not affected by lack of a Deputy Speaker. “Currently, the Maharashtra Assembly is functioning without an elected Speaker after the resignation of Nana Patole,” he pointed out.
As the combined Opposition did not have the strength to elect a member of their choice, the choice fell on the government. The fact that there was no recognised leader of the Opposition also hampered the process, he stated. In 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi came to power with an overwhelming majority, the Deputy Speaker’s position was given to the AIADMK, he noted.