February 8, 2023

The Status of Loksabha Speaker

The office of the Speaker is held in the highest respect and esteem in Parliamentary traditions. The evolution of the institution of Parliamentary democracy has as its pivot the institution of the Speaker. He is said to be the very embodiment of propriety and impartiality. He performs wide ranging functions including the performance of important functions of a judicial character.

The court in ‘Kihoto Hollohon v. Zachilluhu (1992)’, while speaking on the judicial power of speaker, said that,

“It would, indeed be unfair to the high traditions of that great office to say that the investiture in it of this jurisdiction (to decide the disqualification of members) would be vitiated for violation of a basic feature of democracy. It is inappropriate to express distrust in the high office of the speaker, merely because some of the speakers are alleged, or even found, to have discharged their functions not in keeping with the great traditions of that high office. The Robes of the Speaker do change and elevate the man inside.”

Evolution of the institution of Parliamentary democracy and role of speaker

The evolution of the institution of Parliamentary democracy has as its pivot the institution of the Speaker. The Speaker holds a high, important and ceremonial office. All questions of the well-being of the House are matters of Speaker’s concern. The Speaker is said to be the very embodiment of propriety and impartiality. He performs wide ranging functions including the performance of important functions of a judicial character.

Mavalankar, who was himself a distinguished occupant of that high office, says:

“In parliamentary democracy, the office of the Speaker is held in very high esteem and respect. There are many reasons for this. Some of them are purely historical and some are inherent in the concept of parliamentary democracy and the powers and duties of the Speaker. Once a person is elected Speaker, he is expected to be above parties, above politics.

In other words, he belongs to all the members or belongs to none. He holds the scales of justice evenly irrespective of party or person, though no one expects that he will do absolute justice in all matters; because, as a human being he has his human drawbacks and shortcomings. However, everybody knows that he will intentionally do no injustice or show partiality. “Such a person is naturally held in respect by all.”

“….The speaker represents the House. He represents the dignity of the House, the freedom of the House and because the House represents the nation, in a particular way, the Speaker becomes the symbol of the nation’s freedom and liberty. Therefore, it is right that that should be an honoured position, a free position and should be occupied always by men of outstanding ability and impartiality.

Referring to the Speaker, Erskine[1] may say:

“The Chief characteristics attaching to the office of Speaker in the House of Commons are authority and impartiality. As a symbol of his authority he is accompanied by the Royal Mace which is borne before him when entering and leaving the chamber and upon state occasions by the Sergeant at Arms attending the House of commons, and is placed upon the table when he is in the chair. In debate all speeches are addressed to him and he calls upon Members to speak – a choice which is not open to dispute.

When he rises to preserve order or to give a ruling on a doubtful point he must always be heard in silence and no Member may stand when the Speaker is on his feet. Reflections upon the character or actions of the Speaker may be punished as breaches of privilege. His action cannot be criticized incidentally in debate or upon any form of proceeding except a substantive motion. His authority in the chair is fortified by many special powers which are referred to below. Confidence in the impartiality of the Speaker is an indispensable condition of the successful working of procedure, and many conventions exist which have as their object not only to ensure the impartiality of the Speaker but also to ensure that his impartiality is generally recognised……”

M.N. Kaul and S.L. Shakdher in `Practice and procedure of Parliament’ 4th Edition, say:

“The all-important conventional and ceremonial head of Lok Sabha is the Speaker. Within the walls of the House his authority is supreme. This authority is based on the Speaker’s absolute and unvarying impartiality – the main feature of the office, the law of its life. The obligation of impartiality appears in the constitutional provision which ordains that the Speaker is entitled to vote only in the case of equality of votes. Moreover, his impartiality within the House is secured by the fact that he remains above all considerations of party or political career, and to that effect he may also resign from the party to which he belonged.”


[1] : Erskine May – Parliamentary Practice – 20th edition p. 234 and 235