Jatiya Sangsad

Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Jatiya Sangsad is vested with the legislative powers of the Republic. Jatiya Sangsad consists of 300 members elected in accordance with law from single territorial constituencies by direct election.

Members of Jatiya Sangsad are elected for five years. Unless dissolved earlier constitutionally by the President, Sangsad stands dissolved on the expiry of the period from the date of its first meeting. Of course President can dissolve the Sangsad anytime under special circumstances. The term of the Sangsad can be extended for a maximum period of one year in a state of war. If after the expiry of the term of the Sangsad and before the holding of the next general elections, the President is satisfied that owing to the existence of a state of war in which the Republic is engaged it is necessary to recall the Sangsad, he shall summon the Sangsad to meet, and that is to be done in consultation with the Prime Minister.

In according with the Constitution of Bangladesh women have the right to be elected directly by the vote of people from any single territorial constituency. In the original Constitution of 1972, 15 seats were reserved for women members, and the tenure of the provision was for 10 years, which was increased to 30 seats in 1979 under Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and the term was extended for 15 years. In 1988, on expiry of the term of 15 years, no seat was kept reserved for women in the Fourth Parliament. In 1990, under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, 30 seats were reserved for women and the duration of such term was extended for another 10 years. The women members are to be elected by the elected members of the Sangsad. But the term of the provision of reserved seats for women expired in December 2001. According to the Constitution (Fourteenth Amendment) Act, 2004 enacted on 17 May 2004, the term of the reserved seats for women members was renewed, and the numbers of seats have been increased to 45. Women can, however, contest in general seats.

A member of Jatiya Sangsad is required to make the oath of affirmation with the Speaker. A member's seat is vacated if he/she fails to make and subscribe the oath of affirmation within ninety days from the date of the first Sangsad session or before the expiry of that period extended by the Speaker on reasonable ground. His/her seat shall be vacated if he/she remains absent from Sangsad for ninety consecutive sitting days without any leave from the Sangsad. For any reason if Sangsad is dissolved the member's seat is also vacated. Moreover, the seat of an elected member of Sangsad shall be declared vacated if he/she resigns from his/her own party or votes in Sangsad against that party, or being present in Sangsad abstains from voting, or abstains himself/herself from any sitting of Sangsad. An independent member can join any party. But once he/she joins in a party, he/she cannot leave the party. If the member resigns from that party he/she vacates his seat.

Speaker is the chief executive of Sangsad and he presides over sessions of the Sangsad. At the first sitting of the Sangsad after any general election, a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker are elected from among the members. The functions of the Speaker are to maintain order and discipline and to uphold the dignity of the Sangsad. He is to remain neutral and his prime responsibility is to preserve the rights of members. His decision and ruling are to be carried out when Sangsad is in session. He can expel a member for the sake of maintaining discipline of Sangsad. Members of Sangsad are to remain respectful to the Speaker.

According to the Constitution, if the President of the Republic is unable to discharge his functions, Speaker shall officiate on his behalf. In absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker presides over Sangsad sessions and performs normal functions. In addition, he will assist the Speaker in all other functions. Speaker can be removed from his post if Sangsad passes a resolution to that end supported by the votes of a majority. If the post of Speaker or Deputy Speaker falls vacant, the vacancy is to be filled up within seven days when Sangsad is in session, or if not at the next first sitting. If for any reason Sangsad is dissolved, the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker shall be deemed to continue to hold office until his successor has entered upon office.

Jatiya Sangsad begins its session after oath-taking of its members and election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker. According to Article 72 of the Constitution, Sangsad shall be summoned to meet within thirty days after the declaration of polling result at any general election of members of Sangsad. By public notification, President summons, prorogues and dissolves Sangsad. He specifies the time and place of its first meeting. The time between the first sitting and the day when Sangsad prorogued or dissolved is called session. At the commencement of the first session of each year, President addresses the Sangsad. There is no provision to exceed sixty days between the end of one session and the sitting of the following session. Sangsad's secretary shall arrange to publish a gazette notification specifying date, time and place of sitting when Sangsad is summoned and send the same to the members. But if Sangsad is summoned under emergency situation or on short notice, an announcement related to date, time and place is published in the gazette or in newspapers so that members are duly informed.

It is the jurisdiction of President to summon, prorogue or dissolve Sangsad. But as mentioned in the Constitution under certain circumstances, such as, in the case of impeachment motion against President of the Republic, the Speaker can summon Sangsad. The Constitution provides that Sangsad is to sit for at least two sessions a year. Different types of sittings are held in Sangsad. These sittings may be of Sangsad or of any committee and sub-committee. According to procedure of Sangsad, the Speaker directs time and dates of the Sangsad sessions. As per direction of the Speaker, time schedule of each sitting is prepared. Speaker can at any time dissolve any sitting and summon the same at any other date and time. Time and date of the sitting of a committee is fixed by its chairman, and in case of the absence of chairman secretary of the Sangsad fixes date and time. Upon the advice of the Leader of the House, Speaker can fix a day or part of a day for a secret meeting of Sangsad. During the time of the meeting there is no entry to any visitor at house, lobby or gallery unless otherwise permitted by the Speaker. Speaker at his own consideration can disclose proceedings of a secret meeting. But any other person present cannot record or note in part or full of proceedings or any decision of the meeting and also cannot disclose or discuss. Other rules of the secret meeting are fixed by the direction of the Speaker.

At least presence of sixty members is required to have quorum in a Sangsad session. If members' presence is less than sixty, at any time Speaker suspends the session and starts striking a bell for five minutes. Even after that, if there is no quorum speaker dissolves the session.

Leader of the House means a leader who has got confidence of the majority of members. In parliamentary system, leader of the Sangsad is appointed as the chief government executive or Prime Minister. However, any other member nominated by the Prime Minister can be the Leader of the House. The role of the Leader of the House is very important to make Sangsad effective and successful. He/she is to perform the responsibility of maintaining the rights of parties in government and opposition. Leader of the House controls government proceedings through the chief whip. He/she advises the Speaker on important issues. It is his/her responsibility to adopt all plans relating to legislation.

The Leader of the Opposition is elected upon the confidence of all opposition members including the opposition party of maximum members in the Sangsad. He/she leads opposition parties and fixes proceedings of a session through discussion with the Leader of the House and the whips. He/she enjoys the rank and facilities of a full minister. He/she gets full time office and a staff. He/she works as a substitute to the Prime Minister's responsibility at the time of legislation, parliamentary debate and any type of crisis.

Whips from government and opposition parties in Sangsad are appointed in order to maintain understanding between both the parties and to see the interest of his own party. There is one chief whip from each of the government and opposition parties. There are other whips to assist the chief whip. The chief whip and the other whips get no extra honorarium. Their works in Sangsad keep them always busy. To mobilise members to vote in favour of their own parties, to supply necessary documents, papers and information to their party members and to appraise the party leader of parliamentary matters and to assist the party leader in his business are some of the important functions of the whips. Their functions also include the preparation of list of party members to represent at the different committees. Good mutual understanding and relation between the chief whips and the whips of both parties ensures smooth functioning of session. In case of any problem or dispute in the Sangsad, chief whip can play a vital role to mitigate it.

Front seats of the Sangsad house is called Treasury bench. Ministers and leading members sit in the front row. Treasury bench remains at the right side of Speaker's chair. Front row at its opposite side is occupied by the opposition leader, deputy leader, whips and other leading opposition members. Treasury bench is also called 'Front bench'. The members on the back row both in government and opposition sides are named as back benchers. These members are neither ministers nor holding any important post in the government.

Language used by the members of Sangsad in their speeches in the House or in writing Sangsad proceedings is termed as the 'Language of Sangsad'. Generally, state language is used as language of the Sangsad; so Bangla is the language of Jatiya Sangsad. Members are to speak in Bangla. But any member found unable to express properly in Bangla may be permitted by the Speaker to speak in English. Government record of the proceedings of Sangsad is kept in Bangla; of course Speaker can allow to record in English any part or quotation of the proceedings.

In the Constitution, there is a provision that President at the commencement of the first session after the general election of members of the Sangsad and also at the first session of each year shall address the Sangsad. There is no instruction in the Constitution regarding the subject matter of his address. But according to democratic practice, this address contains an authentic narration of state's internal and external policies of the current year. Before presenting his address President informs the Speaker in writing. Speaker after fixing the date and time of the address includes the subject in the business session of the particular day. Speaker upon the advice of the Leader of the House allots time to discuss on presidential address. Discussion on the address is held on thanks giving proposal made by a member and supported by another. If any message is sent by the President, Speaker reads it out and gives necessary instructions for any discussion on it. Contact is established between Sangsad and President by his written message sent through the Speaker. In fact, President makes liaison with Sangsad through Speaker.

For doing the business of the Jatiya Sangsad in an orderly manner several committees are formed. In article 76(1) of the Constitution, there is provision to appoint three standing committees: (a) a public accounts committee; (b) committee of privileges; and (c) such other standing committees as the Sangsad rules of procedure require. In addition, there are such committees as business advisory committee, committee relating to bill and decision proposal of private members, budget committee, committee relating to government assurances, committee relating to scrutiny of bills, committee on government establishments, parliamentary committee, library committee and special committee. Members of all these committees are appointed on the proposal passed by Sangsad. According to constitutional provision, the term of all committees is valid up to the duration of running Sangsad except the committee relating to scrutiny of bills or for other special purposes. But if necessary, Sangsad may reconstitute committees.

A committee meeting needs nearly one-third of its members present for quorum. All decisions are taken by vote of majority members present in a meeting. If there is a tie on any issue, the chairman or any member acting as chairman may use second or casting vote. A provision is there to appoint one or more powerful sub-committees under the original committee to examine any subject sent to the committees. When a report of a sub-committee is accepted by its original committee, it deems a report of the original committee. Chairman generally fixes the date and time of committee meeting and in his absence the secretary can decide its date and time. Secretary upon the advice of the concerned minister can fix date and time of a meeting of the committee relating to scrutiny of bill if chairman is found late at schedule time. Cabinet secretary is an ex-officio secretary to each committee who may delegate power to perform his prescribed function on any officer of the secretariat. Generally, committees are of two kinds: parliamentary committee and ministerial committee. Main functions of these committees are to examine draft bills and other legislative proposals and to put recommendation for the improvement of such bills.

The Jatiya Sangsad through committees supervises the activities of the government. Committees may place proposals for taking necessary steps after reviewing whether legislation of Sangsad is being properly applied. Committees have the power to enquire and investigate into important ministerial works and administration on the matters of public importance. Success of the Sangsad largely depends on the effectiveness of these committees. There are specific provisions in the rules of procedure about appointment, power and functions of the committees. Every part of a bill placed before Sangsad is called 'clause'. These are termed as laws after their enactment in the Sangsad. A bill is discussed clause by clause after it is placed in Sangsad by the Speaker. Committee may change a clause or add a new clause if it deems necessary.

Jatiya Sangsad makes rules of procedure for its smooth functioning. Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad has its own rules of procedure. It has specific directives relating to summons of Sangsad, its prorogation or dissolution, sitting arrangement of members, oath and list, election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker, nomination of presidium, power and functions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker, session of Sangsad, arrangement of proceedings, daily programme, address of President before Sangsad and his message, questions and questions on short notice, proposals on different issues, legislation, amendment of Constitution, petition, procedures relating to finance, proposal for decision, special power of a member of Sangsad, rules of procedure of the committees, general procedures, rules to be followed by members etc.

There are two types of functions of the Sangsad, government functions and private functions. Bill, budget, proposal for decision, amendment and other proposals placed by any minister is regarded as government functions, while such things placed by any government member and opposition member are considered as private functions. One day in a week is kept reserved for private proceeding. Other days are only for government proceedings which get more privilege and more time. In a particular day, privilege is given to perform a specific type of proceedings. If necessary, Speaker upon the advice of the Leader of the House can allot any day for private proceedings. Proceedings of Sangsad are arranged according to the direction of the Speaker.

Parliamentary secretary prepares a list of proceedings for a particular day. After its approval from the Speaker a copy of proceeding is sent to all members before a day's work starts. It is known as daily programme. A proceeding not included in daily programme cannot be transected without the permission of the Speaker. In any daily programme scheduled for decision proposal of the private members more than five proposals cannot be included. Of course Speaker can change the provision. The members are required of issue prior notice for raising any question or proposal before the Sangsad. They issue notice addressed to the secretary in writing as per rules of procedure. Copy of the notice and other papers including a copy of questions are sent to the members at due time. This notice needs to be sent at least fifteen days earlier. A member cannot serve notice for more than ten questions per day.

If a question is made to a minister, Speaker after consulting the concerned minister can allow the placing of questions within less than fifteen days. No notice can be published by a member or any other person until it is accepted by the Speaker and served among the members. Speaker by his own discretion can revise a notice before it is served in case it is found disputable, in contravention with parliamentary rules, sarcastic, irrelevant, and full of verbose or not acceptable for other reason. Private members raising a decision proposal are to serve notice at least ten days earlier. A member cannot serve notice having more than twenty five decision proposals. During session, question is raised on validity issue. In clause 301 of rules of procedure of the Sangsad, there is a reference on the issue of raising question of validity, Speaker's action and other related issues. Any member can raise a question of validity. But this should be within the purview of the Constitution, rules of procedure and power of the Speaker. Speaker decides whether the question is a question of validity. No debate is allowed on the question of validity. Of course Speaker if he deems reasonable can allow members' opinion prior to his decision. Speaker's decision is final on this issue.

Draft or proposal for a law is called bill. For legislation any proposal brought before Sangsad is moved as bill. Bill may be of two kinds. Treasury bill is moved by a minister and private bill can be moved by any member. Proposal for seeking permission to move any bill initially requires a notice. Then the bill is notified in gazette. At the next stage bill is accepted for consideration or is sent to the standing committee or to the select committee. At that stage, discussion is made on the amendment on the bill. When a bill is passed, Speaker after due attestation sends it to the President for his/her assent. The President within fifteen days from its placement gives his assent or sends it back to the Sangsad for reconsideration. The Sangsad after reconsidering the bill again places it to the President, and the President gives his assent within seven days. In case the President fails to do so within the specified time, the bill is deemed to have been assented on the expiry of seven days. Then the bill turns to be a law. But in case of money bill this procedure is not applicable. Money bill cannot be placed before the Sangsad without the recommendation of President. The money bill once passed in the Sangsad cannot be sent back for reconsideration. The certificate of the Speaker is final as to whether a bill is a money bill or not. Government initiates a money bill or any bill which involves expenditure. Every year a money bill with financial proposal of the government for the next year is placed before the Sangsad. The President gives his assent to the money bill within fifteen days from its placement. If he fails to do so, the bill is deemed to have been a law on the expiry of the period.

At the beginning of a financial year, a statement of the estimated receipts and expenditure of the government for that year is to be placed before the Sangsad. Normally the Finance Minister places budget to the Sangsad. Budget includes financial statement of receipt and expenditure of the previous year, a picture of receipt and expenditure of the current year and the financial demand. The session of Sangsad in which budget is placed is known as budget session. After the three stages discussion, debate and voting money bill is presented to the President for his assent. But expenditure charged upon the consolidated fund cannot be submitted to the vote of the Sangsad. Speaker allots separate days to debate on every phase of a budget. As per clause 89(2) of the Constitution demand for grants is passed in the Sangsad. Sector-wise expenditure is mentioned in demand for grants. At the next stage, appropriation bill is passed. Entire government fund is kept in the consolidated fund. Receipt of any money from the consolidated fund needs appropriation from the Sangsad. No amendment can be proposed in Sangsad to any such bill which has the effect of varying the amount of any grant so made or altering the purpose to which it is to be applied, or of varying the amount of any expenditure charged on the consolidated fund.

Debate is held among the members of Sangsad on the address of President, on any bill or proposal and any issue of public importance. In debate, members put argument in favour of their own deliverance and cite argument countering others. There is no specific rule on debate. Time is specified for debate. Debate ends on voting or no-voting on the issue or on acceptance or rejection. Members are to take part in debate as per parliamentary rules.

Usually members of opposition parties in protest against some government decisions or Speaker's ruling walk-out from the House. Members of government parties may also walk-out. In parliamentary democracy walking out is recognised as member's right. There is example of frequent walk-out of the opposition party in Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad.

In parliamentary language 'boycott' means abandonment from Sangsad. Members for specific demand or in protest of Speaker's decision or ruling or on the issues of political movement against government may boycott the House. In Bangladesh Boycott practice is noticeable after 1990s. In case of voting, particular word is used to mean 'vote for' or 'vote against' in the Sangsad.

Jatiya Sangsad has its own secretariat for its official transactions and businesses. It is vested with the responsibility of giving notice of summoning the Sangsad, preparation of the list of members, preparation of daily proceedings, to receive notice of question and proposal, to prepare report and publish it, and other miscellaneous services. The Sangsad secretariat is exclusively the establishment of the Sangsad, not an organ or a department of the government. Jatiya Sangsad makes separate rules for the appointment of the officers and employees of its secretariat and their terms of service.

A total of nine Sangsad have been formed in Bangladesh through the general election. In 1973, multi-party parliamentary system of government was introduced for the first time. But this system could not be continued. In January 1975, the multi-party parliamentary system was abolished through the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which introduced a presidential system of government under a single party. In September 1991, the presidential rule was abolished through the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution and the parliamentary system of government was restored. According to the parliamentary system, a government can be changed at any time on the floor of the Sangsad, but the twelfth amendment ensured that a government could not be changed till the end of its five-year tenure.

In seventh Jatiya Sangsad formed in 1996, question-answer session of the Prime Minister was introduced during the Sangsad session. One day is fixed in a week for this session. The members will ask questions to the Prime Minister on different issues and Prime Minister has to give answer to them. Initially, the duration of this question-answer session was fixed for 15 minutes. From the Eighth Jatiya Sangsad it has been increased to 30 minutes, 15 minutes for the government members and 15 minutes for the opposition members.

Tenure of First Sangsad was 2 years 6 months, from 7 April 1973 to 6 November 1975. Tenure of Second Sangsad was 2 years 11 months, from 2 April 1979 to 24 March 1982. Third Sangsad continued for 1 year 5 months, from 10 July 1986 to 6 December 1987. Fourth Sangsad continued for 2 years 7 months, from 15 April 1988 to 6 December 1990. Tenure of Fifth Parliament was 4 years 8 months, from 5 April 1991 to 24 November 1995. Sixth Sangsad continued for 12 days, from 19 March to 30 March 1996. Tenure of Seventh Sangsad was 5 years, from 14 July 1996 to 13 July 2001. Eighth Sangsad continued for 5 years, from 28 October 2001 to 27 October 2006. Ninth Sangsad started its first session from 25 January 2009. [Shahida Akhter]