Need of Indian Legislative Service – UPSC GS2

Why Indian Legislative Service is needed?
  • There are many legislative bodies in India, ranging from the panchayat, block panchayat, zila parishad, municipal corporations to State legislatures and Union Parliament at the national level.
  • To ensure competent and robust legislative institutions, there is the need to have qualified and well-trained staff to support the legislative functioning.
  • Parliament and State legislative secretariats recruit their pool of bureaucrats separately.
  • There continues to be a lack of a common public recruiting and training agency at the national level.
  • This common service could help build a combined and experienced legislative staff cadre, enabling them to serve from across local bodies to Union Parliament.
  • The Rajya Sabha can make use of the powers under Article 312 to such an all-India service common to both the Union and the States.
    • Article 312 states that if the Council of States has declared by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest so to do, Parliament may by law provide for the creation of an all India service, common to the Union and the States, and regulate the recruitment, and the conditions of service of persons appointed, to any such service.
Secretariats of the Parliamentary houses:
  • Article 98 of the Indian Constitution provides for secretariats for the two houses of the Parliament.
    • As per the provisions of this article, each House of Parliament shall have a separate secretariat staff although there could also be the creation of posts common to both Houses of Parliament.
    • It also states that the parliament may by law regulate the recruitment, and the conditions of service of persons appointed, to the secretarial staff of either House of Parliament.
  • The Secretariat looks after the day-to-day administration and legislative needs of the Parliament. Parliament relies on the efficient functioning of this administrative body to conduct its business smoothly.
  • The Parliamentary Secretariat functions under the direction and control of its Presiding Officer.
  • The Secretary-General, Rajya Sabha, functions as the head of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and advisor to the Chairman, Rajya Sabha. He is chosen and appointed by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha. As advisor to the Chairman in matters concerning Rajya Sabha or its Secretariat, he is the repository of the accumulated wisdom of the House, and the custodian of its culture, traditions and precedents. He is, therefore, expected to possess certain special abilities, traits, orientation and aptitude.
  • As the head of the Secretariat, he is expected to be conversant with all matters that have a reference to the Rajya Sabha and its business; whether they relate to some constitutional issue or some procedure that should be followed in a given situation.
  • The Secretary-General is the third most important functionary of the Rajya Sabha after the Chairman, Rajya Sabha and the Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha.
  • The Secretary-General enjoys certain privileges such as freedom from arrest, immunity from criminal proceedings, and any obstruction and breach of their rights would amount to contempt of the House.
Concerns with the current practice of appointing outsiders as Secretary-Generals:
  • Against the principle of separation of powers:
    • Appointing serving or retired civil servants to the post of Secretary-General amounts to the breach of the principle of separation of power as envisaged under the Indian Constitution and also upheld by the judiciary as a basic structure of the Constitution.
    • Article 98 of the Constitution, by providing for two separate secretariats, emphasizes the principle that the secretariats should be independent of the executive government.
    • A separate and independent secretariat marks a feature of a functioning parliamentary democracy. Appointing civil servants to the post of Secretary-General could undermine the independence of the Secretariat.
  • Impact its role of holding the executive accountable:
    • In a parliamentary polity like India, apart from passing legislations, the Parliament is also expected to scrutinize the executive’s administrative behaviour. A strong Parliament means a more accountable executive. Appointing former bureaucrats to head important legislature bodies like the Secretariat could lead to a possible conflict of interests.
  • Lack of knowledge of the functioning of the legislature:
    • The Secretary-General is entrusted with a wide range of duties and functions which necessitate vast knowledge and rich experience of Parliamentary procedures, practices and precedents. Most civil servants may lack this expertise.
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