How does a bill become law in India?« Back to Questions List

India is a federal country, therefore laws can be made separately at different levels, by the Union Government (Federal Government) for the entire country and by the State Governments for their respective states. The legislative procedure in India for the Union Government requires that proposed bills pass through the two legislative houses of the Indian parliament. The legislative procedure for states with bicameral legislatures requires that proposed bills be passed firstly in the state's Vidhan Sabha (Lower House) and then in the State Vidhan Parishad (Upper House). In states with unicameral legislatures, laws and bills need only be passed in the state's Vidhan Sabha, for there is no Vidhan Parishad.

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There are three stages through which a bill has to pass in one house of the Parliament. The procedure is similar for the State Assemblies.

First reading - introduction stage

Any member, or member-in-charge of the bill seeks the leave of the house to introduce a bill. If the bill is an important one, the minister may make a brief speech, stating its main features. After the bill has been introduced, the first reading is deemed to be over. Therefore, in the first stage, only the principles and provisions of the bills are discussed.

 Second reading - discussion stage

This stage concerns the consideration of the bill and its provisions and is further divided into three stages.

First stage

On a date fixed for taking up consideration of the bill, there takes place a general discussion when only the principles are taken up for discussion. At this stage, three options are open to the house. The bill may be straightaway be taken into consideration or it may be referred to any of the Standing Committees or it may be circulated for the purpose of eliciting general opinion thereon

Second stage, that is, discussion on the report

The next stage consists of a clause-by-clause consideration of the bill as reported by the committee. When all the clauses have been put to vote and disposed of, the second reading of the bill is over.

Third stage

Changes or amendments to the bill can be made only in this stage. Amendments become a part of a bill if they are accepted by a majority of the members present and voting.

Third reading - voting stage

The next stage is the third reading. The debate on the third reading of a bill is of a restricted character. It is confined only to arguments either in support of the bill or for its rejection as a whole, without referring to its details. After the bill is passed, it is sent to the other house. If the number of votes in favour and against the bill are same, then the Presiding officer (Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or anyone who is acting on their behalf) of the house get a chance to cast his/her vote which is referred to as a Casting Vote Right.

 

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 Bill in the other house

After a bill, other than a money bill, is transmitted to the other house, it goes through all the stages in that house as that in the first house. But if the bill passed by one house is amended by the other house, it goes back to the originating house. If the originating house does not agree with the amendments, it shall be that the two houses have disagreed.

In case of a deadlock between the two houses or in a case where more than six months lapse in the other house, the President may summon a joint session of the two houses which is presided over by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the deadlock is resolved by simple majority.

President's approval

When a bill has been passed, it is sent to the President for his approval. The President can assent or withhold his assent to a bill or he can return a bill, other than a money bill which is recommended by president himself to the houses, with his recommendations. If the President gives his assent, the bill is published in The Gazette of India and becomes an Act from the date of his assent. If he withholds his assent, the bill is dropped, which is known as pocket veto. The pocket veto is not written in the constitution and has only been exercised once by President Zail Singh: in 1986, over the postal act where the government wanted to open postal letters without warrant. If the president returns it for reconsideration, the Parliament must do so, but if it is passed again and returned to him, he must give his assent to it. In the case of a Constitutional Amendment Bill, the President is bound to give his assent. In case of the State Governments, the consent of the State's Governor has to be obtained.

 

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