Explained | What is a Special Session of Parliament? How does it work?

It was only in 2017, when for the first time, a bill was discussed in a special session. On June 30, 2017, the Modi government had called for a joint midnight session of both the houses to roll out Goods and Services Tax(GST).
Last Updated : 02 September 2023, 15:27 IST

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On August 31, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Pralhad Joshi, announced a ‘special session’ of Parliament from September 18-22 to discuss ‘important items’. The announcement has sparked a buzz as the purpose for summoning a special session barely a month after the monsoon session culminated, remains in the realm of speculation. The minister has apprised that agenda for the session will be circulated shortly. 

There will be no Question Hour, no Zero Hour and no private member business during the special session.

President Droupadi Murmu is likely to issue an order to summon the House when she returns from her tour of Chhattisgarh. 

What is a Special Session of Parliament?

The Constitution does not mention the term “special session.” The President, who summons a regular Parliamentary session will summon this session also as per provisions of Article 85(1) of the Constitution. 

Article 85(1) states that “The President shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he/she thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session.”

Even though it mandates two sessions in a window of six months, the provision is merely to ensure minimum parliamentary sitting. The article has provisions for the President to summon the house as and when required, and does not prohibit the Parliament from meeting frequently.

Special Parliamentary sessions since Independence

A special session of Rajya Sabha was held in February 1977 for two days for the extension of the President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu and Nagaland under the second provision to article 356(4). On June 3, 1991, another two-day session was held for approval of President’s rule in Haryana.

In 2008 as well, when Left parties withdrew support from the then UPA government led by Manmohan Singh, a special session of Lok sabha was called for trust vote. Many special sessions and joint sittings have also been convened to commemorate national milestones like 50 years of Quit India movement, or of India's independence.

It was only in 2017, when for the first time, a Bill was discussed in a special session. On June 30, 2017, the Modi government had called for a joint midnight session of both the houses to roll out Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Sources have suggested that the agenda for this session will be finalized soon and might include “discussion on key issues and a few bills.”

Speculations Galore 

The open ended announcement has left the nation speculating what ‘important items’ could make it to the list of agenda. The decision of the government to form a 8-member committee led by former President Ram Nath Kovind to investigate feasibility of ‘one nation one election’, has created likelihood for the matter to be taken up in special parliamentary session. Though it is clear that the consultation process for the same could take some time as constitutional amendments and legislative changes would be pre-requisite. 

‘One Nation One Election’ has been hailed by PM Modi since quite a while. The prime minister has often promulgated compelling advantages of synchronous Union and Assembly elections : significant alleviation in financial and logistic burden, increased participation, etc. Those critical of it, fear that regional issues might get completely overshadowed by national concerns thereby injecting an imbalance in democratic representation. 

Other key bills like the Women's reservation Bill could also become part of the legislative business to be undertaken in the Special session. The Bill proposes 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. The Bill was proposed in 2010 by UPA, but could not be passed because of stiff opposition from several parties like Samajwadi Party(SP) and Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) that demanded sub category reservations for OBC, SC and ST. By replacing the earlier bill and tabling the new one, the government might eye to appeal women voters on one hand, while also exposing differences within the opposition I.N.D.I.A bloc over the bill, on other. 

The possibility of tabling Uniform Civil Code has been ruled out as of now. The opposition, which is staunchly demanding a probe by Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into fresh allegations of fraud and stock manipulation by Adani Group, has reiterated that their demand would continue to resonate inside and outside the Parliament.

Published 02 September 2023, 15:27 IST

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