In a democracy, like India. The citizens of the country vote and elect representatives who hold the responsibility of representing the people of their respective constituencies. They sit in the parliament of the country, the apex law making body of the country and formulate laws and policies that will help in the governance and running of the country.
Recently, the Goods and Services tax bill was passed, but not many know that this particular bill took a lot of effort and time to be put through the parliament. In this article I’ll explain in very simple language, the journey of a bill towards becoming a law.
The basic function of the legislature body, the parliament, is to make laws for the country and the people. Hence, a specific procedure has been laid out that has to be followed to make a law. A bill is a draft of the proposed law.
First, we will talk about the different types of bills. Basically there are two broad categories of bills, a private member’s bill and a government bill. They are further classified into Non-money bill, money bill, ordinary bill and constitution amendment bill. When a member of parliament who is not a minister in the council of ministers introduces a bill then this bill is classified as private member’s bill. On the other hand, when a minister of the council introduces a bill in either houses of the parliament then it is called a government bill.
The above bills are then classified as money bills and non-money bills. The significance of money bills is that they are only worked upon and taken into consideration in the LokSabha and not in the RajyaSabha, i.e. it can only be introduced in the LokSabha only and requires the passing in just the LokSabha. The bill is taken to the RajyaSabha but the considerations and suggestions may or may not be taken into account by the LokSabha. Whereas a non-money bill can be introduced in either of the houses and has to be passed in both the houses.
Bills are further classified into ordinary bills and constitution amendment bill. Ordinary bills are those bills which are simple laws and have very simple provisions in the constitution and require a simple majority in the houses to be passed. Whereas a constitution amendment bill is a type of bill in which the bill proposes a change in the basic, fundamental values and laws of the constitution and therefore cannot be very easily amended. It requires a special majority and requires approval of more than half the states of the country, example- Changing the fundamental rights.
Simple majority is the 50%+1 of the total members who are present and voting. Whereas a special majority requires 2/3rds majority of members present and voting and in both houses of parliament.
Now let us observe the journey of a bill. We’ll be talking about a government non-money ordinary bill.
The bill is first introduced in either houses of the parliament, LokSabha or Rajya Sabha. There it is deliberated and discussed upon by both the opposition and the ruling party. This bill is then sent to a special committee for consideration or in certain cases discussed in the house itself. In case of it being sent to the committee, the committee will give a report of the bill, it suggests changes and provides other specific information that are required in it.
After the committee report, a detailed discussion of the bill is carried out in the house it was introduced in. Members of both ruling and opposition party put in their views and suggested amendments to the bill. After the deliberation and discussions are done, the various amendments that have been moved (moved here means initiated) in the house are put to vote, following this the bill itself is put to vote. If it is passed then it goes on to the other house and in case it fails to pass then the bill ‘dies.’
The other house then follows the same procedure of deliberation and discussion of the bill and suggests changes to the bill. Then the bill is put to vote, if passed it goes to the President for his/her approval. Just in case the bill fails in the second house but has been passed in the house of origin then a joint session is called (this has been a very rare occasion). Joint sessions usually go in favour of the LokSabha as they are more in number.
All bills go through the President of India, he/she can reject a bill only once and suggest changes to it. These changes may or may not be accepted and when the bill comes back, he/she has to sign it. An unofficial power of the President is known as the ‘Pocket Veto.’ The constitution does not have a specific time period in which the bill has to be signed by the President and therefore if the President personally feels the bill is not right for the country, he simply ‘pockets’ the bill and doesn’t sign it. There is no provision against this in the constitution.
After the President’s signature the bill finally becomes law and is implemented nationwide.
That’s how a bill becomes a law, it is a very long drawn out process with sometimes the process taking 10 years! (GST) There are many other factors like political maneuvers and changing conditions of the country. This very provision has made the constitution resolute as well as flexible to changing times, simultaneously and this particular characteristic of the constitution has helped the country survive and keep the constitution relevant.