Legislative Branch


India is a federal democratic republic with a parliamentary form of government. India’s central legislative branch consists of the President, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) as the upper house and the Lok Sabha (House of the People) as the lower house.



The East India Company established a legislative body in the Council of the Governor-General of India, which had both executive and legislative functions. The Governor-General’s Council was succeeded by the Imperial Legislative Council, which was another entirely British body. The Indian Councils Acts of 1892 and 1909 allowed a small number of Indians to be elected to the Imperial Legislative Council. In 1919, the British Parliament introduced a bicameral legislature that consisted of an upper and lower house[1]. The Constituent Assembly, India’s first sovereign legislature, was formed in order to frame the Constitution of India[2]. The Constitution was adopted on November 26, 1949, and came into effect on January 26, 1950.



The current parliament was established in accordance with the Constitution, which stipulates that “there shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of State (Rajya Sabha) and House of the People (Lok Sabha)”. The main functions of Parliament are to pass laws, ensure that the executive performs its duties satisfactorily, represent the views and aspirations of the people of their constituency in Parliament and approve and oversee the revenues and expenditures proposed by the government[3].

The Parliament of India shares its lawmaking function with twenty-nine state legislatures.  Seven union territories also exist, which are governed directly by the Union government. The legislative powers of the Union Parliament are specified in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, which stipulates a “Union list” that Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction to legislate, and a “Concurrent list,” which enumerates subjects that Parliament legislates jointly with state governments. The legislative powers of the State are specified in the “State list” of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. The respective state governments have exclusive power to legislate on matters relating to the items prescribed in the list.



The legislative branch consists of the President, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) as the upper house and the Lok Sabha (House of the People) as the lower house.  The House of People and the Council of States constitute India’s bicameral Parliament.

Article 81 of the Constitution of India stipulates a maximum cap of 552 members for the Lok Sabha, including up to 530 members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the states, and up to 20 members to represent the Union Territories. The total elective membership is distributed among the states according to population. The Lok Sabha currently has 545 members[4]. Members serve for five-year terms.

Article 80 of the Constitution stipulates a cap of 250 members for the Council of States.  Of these, 12 members are nominated by the President and 238 are representatives who are indirectly elected by the members of the State Legislative Assemblies and Union Territory Electoral Colleges.[5] Currently, the Rajya Sabha has 245 representatives. Members serve for six-year terms.

Both Houses of Parliament have Presiding Officers (Speakers and Deputy Speakers), House Leaders and Whips. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over the sessions, maintains parliamentary decorum and discipline and regulates the day to day conduct and business of the House. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected from members by simple majority from members present and voting in the House. The Speaker performs his or her function in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the Rules and Procedures of Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha[6].

The Presiding Officers of the Rajya Sabha are tasked with conducting the proceedings in the House. The Vice President of India acts as the Presiding officer, serving as ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The Deputy Chairman is elected from the members of the House and takes care of the day to day working of the House. The Vice President is not a member of the House and does not take part in voting except when there is a tie. [7]

Each House also has a Secretary General, who serves as an advisor to the speaker and members on parliamentary functions and activities and matters of procedure and practice.

The Parliament is also broken into several committees, in which laws are introduced before being brought before the entire House for a vote. In India, the parliamentary committees are generally of two types: ad-hoc committees and standing committees. Ad-hoc committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish discussing the task assigned. Standing committees are permanent and regular committees. Some standing committees include the committee on agriculture, the committee on commerce, and the committee on defence.



The legislative process is initiated by the introduction of the bill in either House of Parliament. The members of Parliament may raise objections and challenges on certain grounds during the first reading. Any member of Parliament may oppose the bill on the ground that it is outside the legislative competency of the House. After the first debate, the Speaker puts forth a vote to introduce the bill.

After the Bill is introduced, it is published in the Gazette of India. The first stage of the second reading begins with a discussion of the principles and provisions of the bill. The second stage of the second reading consists of a clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. Discussion and debate take place on each clause of the bill, and members of the House may propose amendments at this stage. Each amendment is put to a vote; if the majority of the members present and voting approve the amendment, they become a part of the bill.

During the third reading of the bill, one of the members who introduced the bill may move that the bill be passed. Here, the debate is confined to arguments in support or rejection of the bill without referring to the details more than absolutely necessary. Only formal, verbal, and consequential amendments are allowed to be presented at this stage.

An ordinary bill needs only a simple majority (50% +1) of Members present and voting to pass. However, bills that amend the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting and a majority of the total membership of the House. After the bill has been passed in one House, it is sent to the other House for a similar procedure. If the second House adds additional amendments to the bill, it will be returned to the first House for concurrence. 

Money bills (which contain provisions for taxes and the appropriation of funds) may only be introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments to a money bill passed by the Lok Sabha, though it can send the bill back to the Lok Sabha with recommendations. The Rajya Sabha must return the bill to the Lok Sabha within 14 days; if it fails to do so, the bill is considered passed by both Houses and moves to the President for approval.

If a bill is passed by one house and is rejected by the other house, or the houses have finally disagreed about the amendments to be made in the bill, or more than six months lapse from the date of receipt of the bill by the other house without the bill being passed by it, the President may, unless the bill has lapsed by reason of the dissolution of Lok Sabha, call a joint sitting of the two houses to resolve the deadlock[8]. The President may not call a joint sitting of both Houses for a Constitutional Amendment Bill.

The final step of the legislative process is presidential assent. The President can give his assent or withhold his assent to a Bill.  The President can also return the bill, if it is not a money bill, with his recommendations to the Houses for reconsideration. If the Houses pass the bill again, with or without amendments, the President cannot withhold his assent to it.  The President is bound to give his assent to a Constitution Amendment Bill presented to him for assent[9].


[1] Rajya Sabha Secretariat, An Introduction to Parliament of India (May 2007), http://rajyasabha.nic. in/rsnew/Parliament_of_India.pdfarchived at https://perma.cc/M2PT-WCPD.

[2] First Day in the Constituent Assembly: Some Facts, Parliament of India, http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/ debates/facts.htm (last visited Feb. 6, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/Y697-SUC3.

[3] About Parliament, PRS Legislative Research, http://www.prsindia.org/parliamenttrack/about-parliament/the-indian-parliament-198 (last visited Jan. 31, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/87DB-DN7E.

[4] Lok Sabha (House of the People), Parliament of India, http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/intro/introls.htm (last visited Jan. 30, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/SB85-QVPC

[5] Council of States (Rajya Sabha), Rajya Sabha, http://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/council_state/council_state.asp (last visited Jan. 30, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/NL73-YBH5.

[6] About Parliament, PRS Legislative Research, http://www.prsindia.org/parliamenttrack/about-parliament/the-indian-parliament-198 (last visited Jan. 31, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/2C9J-SQT2

 Role of the Speaker, Office of the Speaker Lok Sabha, http://speakerloksabha.nic.in/roleofthespeaker.asp (last visited Jan. 31, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/K5QM-UNCM.

[7] Ch. 4, Presiding Officers of Rajya Sabha and other Parliamentary Functionariesin Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Rajya Sabha at Work 85 (2006), http://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/rsat_work/chapter-4.pdfarchived at https://perma.cc/6ULA-YUG9

[8] Legislative Procedure in the Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha (Feb. 2005), http://www.rajyasabha.gov.in/ rsnew/practice_procedure/book6.asparchived at https://perma.cc/WUQ7-6J5Y.

[9] How a Bill Becomes an Act, Lok Sabha, parliament/How a bill become an act.pdf (last visited Jan. 31, 2017), archived at https://perma.cc/7PSX-3HQX.