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Constituent Assembly: Genesis of Speaker’s Office

Constituent Assembly took great care to devise ways for its functions and a committee was also set up for this

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: May 13 2016 4:46PM | Updated Date: May 13 2016 4:46PM

Constituent Assembly: Genesis of Speaker’s Office

The Constituent Assembly took great care to devise ways for its functions and a committee was also set up for this. On 29 August 1947 the committee’s report was discussed in the Assembly with President Dr Rajendra Prasad in chair. Among other things the report had the provision of electing a Speaker to preside over the meetings of the legislature. This came for extensive discussion in the wake of amendments moved. Here we reproduce excerpts from the deliberations held mainly on the amendment moved by KM Munshi, a stalwart of freedom struggle, to show how meticulously the issues related to legislature and its main functionary were discussed

 
Mr President: Mr Munshi has given notice of a Resolution embodying the recommendations of this Committee. I think it will be best if that motion is taken up first and the discussion may follow later.
 
Dr PS Deshmukh: Would it not be better if we first take the motion that the reports to be taken into consideration and after a decision on that take up the other amendments?
 
Mr President: Is it necessary to have a separate discussion on the motion for considering the Report? I think both can go together if the House permits. Strictly speaking, that Resolution which Mr Munshi moves is practically the same thing.
 
Mr KM Munshi (Bombay: General): I move the Resolution which stands in my name. The paragraphs of the Resolution which I seek to move are almost in the words of the Report, except one or two things to which I will presently draw the attention of the House. The clauses are taken bodily from the Report which has been explained to the House by the Honourable Dr Ambedkar. I need not, therefore, go over the same ground again, but I would like to draw the attention of the House to one or two changes which I have made and which I think were necessary in the interests of giving proper effect to the Report.
Para. (iv) runs as follows:
 
"Suitable provision should be made in the Rules of the Constituent Assembly for the election of an officer to be designated the Speaker to preside over the deliberations of the Assembly when functioning as the Dominion Legislature."
 
In this connection, I have to mention that the Report has placed before the House two alternatives:
 
Alternative (a) is that the President of the Constituent Assembly should be a person whose whole time is given to the work of the Assembly both when engaged on Constitution-making and when transacting business of the Dominion Legislature. They have also stated another alternative: If the President of the Constituent Assembly is a Minister, provision may be made in the Rules of the Constituent Assembly for the election of an officer to preside over the deliberations of the Assembly when functioning as the Dominion Legislature.
 
Sir, as you happen to be a Minister, I have selected the second alternative and embodied it in my paragraph (iv) with the result that the House will have to elect an officer to preside over the deliberations of the Assembly when it functions as a Dominion Legislature.
 
The only other change that I have ventured to make is the name of the officer whose election I have suggested, that upon election, the officer should be designated Speaker, so that when the House sits as the Constituent Assembly, we will have the President presiding over it and when it sits as a Legislature, the officer elected will preside and we will address him as Speaker.. The word Speaker being of sufficient significance, it will convey that we are sitting as the Legislature and not as the Constitution-making body. That is the only change which I have ventured to make. I submit that the motion as have moved may be accepted by the House.
 
Mr Naziruddin Ahmad (West Bengal: Muslim): Sir, on a point of order, the motion has not been read out and moved.
Mr KM Munshi: I will read it out certainly. I am much obliged to the, Honourable Member for drawing attention to this and I stand corrected. My motion stands as follows:
 
"That with reference to the Motion by the Honourable Dr BR Ambedkar regarding the consideration of the Report on the functions of the Constituent Assembly under the Indian Independence Act, it is hereby resolved that
 
(i) The functions of the Assembly shall be-
 
(a) To continue and complete the work of Constitution-making which commenced on the 9th December, 1946, and
 
(b) To function as the Dominion Legislature until a Legislature under the new Constitution comes into being.
 
(ii) The business of the Assembly as a Constitution-making body should be clearly distinguished from its normal business as the Dominion Legislature, and different days or separate sittings on the same day should be set apart for the two kinds of business.
 
(iii) The recommendations contained in para 6 of the Report regarding the position of representatives of Indian States in the Assembly be accepted."
 
I have incorporated para 6 of the Report. The operative part of that para is as follows:
 
"We agree that, as implied in the wording of this term of reference, the members of the Assembly representing the Indian States are entitled to take part in the proceedings of the Assembly on all days set apart for the business of Constitution-making. They further have the right on days set apart for the functioning of the Assembly as the Dominion Legislature to participate in business, relating to subjects in respect of which the States have acceded to the Dominion. Though it is competent for the Constituent Assembly to deny or limit their participation in business relating to subjects in respect of which the States have not acceded, we should recommend that no ban or restriction be placed by rule on their participation in such business also."
Coming to my resolution,
 
(iv) Suitable provision should be made in the Rules of the Constituent Assembly for the election of an officer to be designated the Speaker to preside over the deliberations of the Assembly when functioning as the Dominion Legislature.
 
(v) The power of summoning the Assembly for functioning as the Dominion Legislature and proroguing it should vest in the President.
 
(vi) Minister of the Dominion Government, who are not Members of the Constituent Assembly, should have the right to attend and participate in its work of constitution-making, though until they become members of the Constituent Assembly they should not have any right to vote.
 
(vii) Necessary modifications. Adaptations and additions should be made--
 
(a) By the President of the Constituent Assembly to the Rules and Standing Orders of the Indian Legislative Assembly to bring them into accord with the relevant provisions of the Government of India Act as adapted under the Indian Independence Act 1947.
 
(b) By the Constituent Assembly or the President, as the case may be, to the Rules and Standing Orders to carry out the provisions of para 9 of the Report and where necessary to secure anappropriate adaptation of the relevant section of the Government of India Act to bring it into conformity with the new Rule."
 
In this connection I may mention one fact which I omitted to mention in the beginning. The power of summoning the Assembly and proroguing is, according to Resolution moved by me and according to the report, to be vested in the President. As already stated, under the Government of India Act, as adapted, for the moment it rests with the Governor-General. That of course means, Governor-General as advised by the Prime Minister. But our legislative function being only an aspect of the Constituent 
Assembly should remain independent of the Governor-General. Therefore, it was thought that the President would be the proper person to summon or prorogue the Legislative Council.
 
These are all the remarks that I have to make and I hope the House will accept the resolution.