What are the duties of a Speaker? | Explained

What does the office of the ‘Speaker pro tem’ mean? What does the Constitution state? Who elects the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha? How can the impartiality of the Speaker’s office be preserved? What are the main roles of the Speaker?

Updated - June 25, 2024 10:57 pm IST

Published - June 23, 2024 11:01 pm IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration ceremony of the new Parliament House, in New Delhi on June 17.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration ceremony of the new Parliament House, in New Delhi on June 17. | Photo Credit: ANI

The story so far: The President has appointed seven-time MP Bhartruhari Mahtab as the ‘Speaker pro tem’ of the 18th Lok Sabha. The election of the full-time Speaker is scheduled for June 26. There are also reports of the Deputy Speaker being offered to one of the allies of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a post that has been held by the Opposition since the 10th Lok Sabha (1991).

Who is Speaker pro tem?

Article 94 of the Constitution states that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha shall not vacate his/her office until immediately before the first meeting of the Lok Sabha after its dissolution. This is to ensure that the office of the Speaker is never left vacant. Hence, Om Birla who was the Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha continues in that post till June 24 when the first meeting of the 18th Lok Sabha is scheduled. Article 95(1) of the Constitution provides that when the post of Speaker and Deputy Speaker is vacant, the President shall appoint a member of the Lok Sabha to perform the duties of the Speaker. This would be the situation when the first meeting of a new Lok Sabha commences.

Hence, the President appoints ‘Speaker pro tem’ under this provision till the full-time Speaker is elected. The term ‘pro tem’ means ‘for the time being’ or ‘temporary’.

This term is not found in the Constitution or rules of Lok Sabha but is a conventional term which finds mention in the ‘Handbook on the working of Ministry of Parliamentary affairs.’ As per tradition, one of the senior-most members of the Lok Sabha is selected by the government, who is then administered oath by the President. The Speaker pro tem administers oath of office to other MPs and presides over the election of full-time Speaker. In the 18th Lok Sabha, Bhartruhari Mahtab of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been appointed as Speaker pro tem.

How is the Speaker of Lok Sabha elected? | Explainer

How are the Speaker and Deputy Speaker elected?

Article 93 of the Constitution states that the Lok Sabha shall choose two members to be its Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The election of the Speaker is held on a date fixed by the President. All the Speakers in independent India have been elected unopposed except on three occasions (1952, 1967 and 1976). The election of Deputy Speaker is held on a date fixed by the Speaker.

What is the importance of the Speaker?

Apart from the conduct of business, the Speakers perform two important constitutional functions of certifying a Bill to be a Money Bill (over which the Rajya Sabha has limited role), and deciding on disqualification under the Tenth Schedule for defection. In discharging these roles in the past, the Speakers have invariably favoured the ruling dispensation, something that should be avoided.

The Lok Sabha rules provide the Speaker with the powers of referral of Bills introduced to Standing Committees and suspension of members for grave disorder up to a maximum of five days. Referral of Bills to committees have declined from 71% during 2009-14 to 16% during 2019-24. With the return of a coalition government, it is expected that the Speaker would refer important Bills to Standing committees for scrutiny. There were also large-scale suspensions of Opposition MPs during the winter session of 2023. Such suspensions affect the robust functioning of Parliament and should be carried out with restraint.

What are the conventions?

In Britain, the Speaker once elected to his/her office, resigns from the political party to which he/she belonged. In subsequent elections to House of Commons, he/she seeks election not as a member of any political party but as ‘The Speaker seeking re-election’. This is to reflect his/her impartiality while presiding over the House. Somnath Chatterjee, who was the Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha acted independently by not resigning from the post despite his party’s (CPM) direction after it had withdrawn support from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government during a confidence vote in 2008. While the Tenth Schedule allows a Speaker to resign from their political party on being elected to their office, it has never been done by any Speaker till date. Resignation from their political parties on being elected as Speaker could be a first step towards demonstrating independence.

The Deputy Speaker is an important constitutional officer who steps in during the vacancy or absence of the Speaker. The convention of offering the post of Deputy Speaker to the Opposition started in the year 1991. Thereafter, till the 16th Lok Sabha this has been followed without a break. It was a travesty of the Constitution that no Deputy Speaker was elected in the 17th Lok Sabha.

The healthy convention of the post being held by Opposition should return in the current Lok Sabha.

Rangarajan.R is a former IAS officer and author of ‘Polity Simplified’. He currently trains civil-service aspirants at ‘Officers IAS Academy’. Views expressed are personal.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.