Anchor: Teena Jha
Importance of this Episode:
- This year on the 16th of March, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress gave the notice for a ‘No Confidence’ motion against the NDA Government at the Centre. The move came just hours after the TDP ended its 4-year-old alliance with the BJP and walked out of the NDA.
- A number of parties had extended their support to the motion.
- In this episode, we will understand what a no-confidence motion is, what are the procedures in moving it? And its role and relevance in a parliamentary democracy.
- It is important to understand the purpose and impact of a “No Confidence Motion” against a Government, and also what leads to the adoption of such a motion.
- The Telegu Desam Party and the YSR Congress had given a notice in the Lok Sabha for a “No Confidence Motion” against the NDA Government.
- Enjoying an absolute majority in Parliament, the Government needs 272 MP’s to prove its majority in the Lok Sabha. While the BJP alone has enough MP’s to win the “No Confidence Motion”, the support of its allies will allow it to sail through the motion without any problem.
- A “No Confidence Motion” becomes a vehicle on its own by virtue of which a unity gets established in the opposition. Secondly, for a particular period, the nation’s gaze appears to switch towards the omissions and commissions of the Government of the day.
- The first Lok Sabha was formed on April 17th, 1952. Parliament saw the first ever “No Confidence Motion” against the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s government in August 1963. This motion was brought in August 1963, by Acharya JB Kripalani who gathered only 62 votes in favour and 347 votes were cast against the motion.
Importance of “No Confidence Motion”
- The “No Confidence Motion” is an important tool against the Council of Ministers (COM) in the Lok Sabha. If 51% of the members of the house vote in favour of the “No Confidence Motion”, it is passed and the Government is deemed to have lost majority and has to resign from office. The Government has to prove its majority in the house either by bringing in a vote of confidence or the opposition can ask the Government to prove its majority after it brings a “No Confidence Motion” .
- At times, the opposition also brings the “No Confidence Motion” to force the Government to discuss important issues.
A motion of “No Confidence Motion” against the Government can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha under rule 198.
Let’s see what is the procedure to move such a motion against the Council of Ministers (COM’s).
Procedure to move a “No Confidence Motion”:
- The procedure is specified under rule 198 of the Lok Sabha. The Constitution of India does not mention about either a Confidence or a No Confidence Motion.
- Although, Article 75 does specify that the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha.
- A motion of No Confidence can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha and by the opposition.
It can be admitted when a minimum of 50 members, support the motion in the house.
- According to Rule 198(1)(a): Leave to make the motion shall be asked for by the member when called by the Speaker.
- According to Rule 198(1)(b): The member asking for such a leave would need to give a written notice of the motion to the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha by 10 AM on the day he/she proposes to move the motion.
- If the notice is received after 10 AM, it shall have been deemed to be received on the next day on which the house sits.
- According to Rule 198(2) states that if the Speaker is of the opinion that the motion is in order, he/she shall read the motion to the house, requesting those members who are in favour of it to rise in their places.
- If at least 50 members support the motion, the Speaker declares that the leave is granted.
- The motion is taken up within 10 days from the date on which the leave is asked for.
- According to Rule 198(3), if leave is granted the Speaker may allot a day/part of a day/days for discussion of the motion. This is done after considering the state of business in the house.
- According to Rule 198(4): the Speaker shall put every question necessary to determine the decision of the house on the motion at the appointed hour on the allotted day.
- According to Rule 198(5): the Speaker may prescribe a time limit for speeches.
- If the motion is passed in the house, the Government is bound to vacate the office.
There is no special provision in the rules for a Confidence Motion. Such a motion is moved as an ordinary motion under Rule 184. When no party has a clear majority, the President may appoint a Prime Minister. This person is expected to prove his/her majority through a Confidence Motion, for instance, President KR Narayanan, appointed Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister on the basis of written support by a majority of MP’s but had asked him to secure the confidence of Parliament in 10 days. Ever since the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, the No Confidence Motion has been presented several times in Parliament. Many of these attempts to bring down the Government have failed, but there are instances when the No Confidence Motion did get passed. Opposition parties also use it as a tool to mount pressure on the Government to make the ruling dispensation discuss matters of pressing national importance. The No Confidence Motion is an important function of Parliamentary proceedings. Members who back the No Confidence Motion indicate that they have lost the Confidence in the Government. It is rare that the opposition manages to beat the party in power with more numbers, but there are instances when it was passed in the house.
- Indira Gandhi has faced the No Confidence Motion 15 times, which is the highest till date.
- CPI(M) leader, Jyoti Basu proposed the No Confidence Motion at least 4 times.
- Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost power in 1999. He himself presented the No Confidence Motion twice.
- It was Morarji Desai’s Government that became the first to the lose the No Confidence Motion. The No Confidence Motion was moved twice against his Government in the Lok Sabha. It was saved the first time, but the second time in 1978, he lost the majority.
- However, Morarji Desai resigned before the vote.
- In 1979, the No Confidence Motion was presented against Chaudhary Charan Singh’s government. Fully aware of the proposal, Chaudhary Charan Singh recommended the dissolution of the Lok Sabha after handing over his resignation to the President. In 1989, VP Singh’s Government was dissolved after the BJP withdrew support.
- In 1993, a No Confidence Motion was filed against the government of Narasimha Rao, but he managed to save his government. In 1997, the Congress withdrew its support to the United Front Government and the then Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda had to resign as the Prime Minister.
- In March 1998, I.K. Gujral’s United Front Government had to resign failed to prove majority.
- In 1999, the Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee missed winning the No Confidence Motion by just a single vote and forced Atal Bihari Vajpayee to resign.
- Before this, in 1996, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to resign 13 days ahead of the No Confidence Motion.
- In July 2008, the Congress Government had to face a No Confidence Motion on the issue of the nuclear deal with the U.S. However, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proved his majority in the Lok Sabha with a marginal difference and survived the No Confidence Motion.
Besides the No Confidence Motion, there are provisions in both houses of Parliament to raise matters of an urgent public importance. Notices can be given under various rules of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to draw the attention of the house to such matters.
Here’s a look at various such motions in Parliament:
A motion is a formal notice made to the house by a member to get a decision of the house on an important issue. After a motion is introduced, a vote is taken and the motion is adopted if a required number of members are supporting.
Adjournment Motion: As per Rule 56 of the Lok Sabha, an adjourment motion is brought to draw the attention of the house to a matter of urgent public importance, having serious consequences. In order to discuss the adjournment motion, the regular proceedings of the house are postponed.
The Adjournment motion is allowed only in the Lok Sabha, and not in the Rajya Sabha.
The adjournment motion needs the support of at least 50 members.
Discussion on the adjournment motion usually begins at 4 in the evening. If an adjournment motion is passed, it is considered as a criticism of the Government policy on the issue. However, the adjournment motion does not pose any threat to the stability of the Government.
Calling Attention Notice:
- A calling attention notice is when a member of Parliament with the permission of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha draws the attention of a minister to a matter of urgent public importance.
- Notice must be given before 10 AM on the day of the sitting for calling attention. The Minister then presents his statement on the issue on the floor of the house. Clarificatory questions can be asked after the Minister’s statement to which he/she has to reply. Calling Attention falls under Rule 197 of the Lok Sabha and Rule 180 of the Rajya Sabha. There is no discussion or voting in Calling Attention Notice. This motion too does not pose a threat to the Government.
Short Duration Discussion:
- Under the provision of a Short Duration Discussion, any member of Parliament (MP) can raise a discussion on a matter of urgent public importance. The Discussion is held under Rule 193 of the Lok Sabha and Rule 176 of the Rajya Sabha.
- The member needs to give notice to the Secretary-General specifying clearly the matter to be raised and the reasons for doing so. The notice needs to be supported by the signatures of at least two other members.
- The Speaker in the Lok Sabha or the Chairman in the Rajya Sabha may allot two sittings in a week on which such matters may be taken up for discussion.
The Minister-in-charge responds at the end of the discussion. There is no voting in Short Duration Discussion.
Questions of Privilege: Any MP may raise a question involving breach of privilege either of a member of the house or of a committee. Questions can be raised only with the consent of the Speaker in the Lok Sabha and Chairman in the Rajya Sabha. The Question of Privilege can be brought under Rule 222 of the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha, the Question of Privilege can be raised under Rule 187
- A cut motion is moved to reduce the amount of a demand made by a ministry during the discussion on Demand For Grants.
- The Lok Sabha Speaker may or may not admit the Cut Motion.
- Similarly, a censure motion is moved to criticize or reject a policy of the Government.
- The President addresses a joint sitting of both the houses after every general election before the start of the first session. The house may discuss the matters referred to in the President’s address in a Motion of Thanks moved by a member and seconded by another member.
- The discussion on the Motion of Thanks concludes with the response of the Prime Minister.
A Note on the Parliamentary System in India:
- The Parliamentary system in India is based on the British Parliamentary model.
- The tradition of the Trust Vote and the Motion of No Confidence is the legacy of the British.
- India’s Parliamentary system is based on Britain’s Westminster model. By the logic of Westminster, you elect a legislature to form the executive and when the executive doesn’t command a secure majority in the legislative assembly, the Government falls. In this model, the elected lower house is important.
- Apart from India, Canada and Australia also follow the Westminster model.
A Historical Note:
- The No Confidence Motion was first introduced in the United Kingdom. In 1742, the Motion of no confidence was passed against Sir Robert Walpole’s government and it was the first time that a Prime Minister of Great Britain resigned after a vote of No Confidence by the House of Commons.
- After this, on the 10th of March 1782, a vote of No Confidence was passed against Frederick North’s government.
- Frederick North was forced to resign from his post. By the middle of the 19th Century, the tradition of breaking the governments was established by the motion of No Confidence in Britain.
- In 2011, under the ‘Fixed-term Parliaments Act’ it was observed that Parliamentary General elections must be held every 5 years beginning in 2015. However, in this as well, a vote of No Confidence against the Government or a 2/3rds majority vote in the House of Commons can still trigger a general election at any time, and if the Government does not get the confidence vote again within 14 days of passing the motion in the House of Commons, the house is dissolved.
- Canada follows the ‘Consensus Government’ In this system, the Prime Minister is chosen among and by a vote of members of the non-partisan legislature. But here too, a vote of No Confidence can remove the Prime Minister and the cabinet from office and permits the members to elect a new Prime Minister.
- In Germany, a vote of No Confidence requires that the opposition on the same ballot proposes a candidate of their own whom they want to be appointed as successor by the respective head of state. Thus, the motion of No Confidence has to be at the same time as a motion of Confidence for a new candidate.
- In Italy, the Government requires the support of both houses of Parliament to pass a vote of No Confidence.
- Article 69 of the 1947 Constitution of Japan provides that if the house of representatives passes a No Confidence resolution, the cabinet shall resign unless the House of Representatives is dissolved within 10 days.
- In the US, motions styled as No Confidence are only symbolic and rare. Party leadership turnover generally occurs as a result of internal discussion and vote among the elected members of the party, followed by the response of the public in a Primary Election and General Election.
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