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INDIA: CEREMONY AND RITUALS


Speaker by the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and leaders of all parties in the House. This is followed by the Address of the newly elected Speaker.


Oath and affirmation


The first two days of the first session of a new Lok Sabha – after a General Election – are devoted to Members taking an oath of office (made in the name of God) or making an affirmation (made in the name of Constitution of India).


Sabha to persuade Members to vote for them; only the candidate elected makes a speech which follows in response to congratulatory speeches made by other MPs. Immediately after the result of election is declared, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition go to the seat of the Speaker-elect, bow to him/her and lead the Speaker-elect to the chair. This ceremony owes its origin to a similar practice developed in the U.K. House of Commons.1


The ceremony of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition going to the Speaker on his/her election, bowing to him/her and leading the Speaker to his/her Chair is indicative of the high regard in which the office of Speaker is held in Parliament. Once the Speaker assumes the Speaker’s Chair, salutations are made to the


The first two days are presided over by the Speaker Pro tem who is appointed by the President of India. Generally, the senior most Member of the Lok Sabha is appointed as Speaker Pro tem. A podium is placed on the right hand side of Table of the House (on the side of the Treasury Benches) for the newly elected Members to take oath or make an affirmation. Names of Members are called by the Secretary General, to which the Member comes to the Table of the House and shows their certificate of election (in original) to the Officer at the Table. Members are then given the oath/affirmation text in the language that they have requested, proceed to take their oath/ make their affirmation. The Member then shakes hands with the Speaker Pro tem, walks behind the Speaker’s chair to reach the other side of the Table (the opposition side) and sits at the Table to sign the Roll of Members, before returning to his/her seat in the House.


The entire process has a great significance and importance for a newly-elected Member since it is the first requisite stage of induction into Parliament. The ceremony of taking an oath/making an affirmation has symbolic as well as practical significance. It is a constitutional requirement as well as a duty for all newly-elected Members. In constitutional as well as functional terms it symbolizes the transition of a newly or re-elected Member into a Member of the new Parliament. Members often talk with pride and humility about the oath/ affirmation ceremony. Members


often take the oath or affirmation in a regional language, as it symbolizes representation of a particular linguistic community. In practical terms it is only after taking oath/making affirmation that a Member can sign the attendance register and participate in the proceedings of the House. In terms of the provisions outlined in Article 100 of the constitution, a Member who remains absent for 60 days without leave of absence loses their Membership. A Member can, however, register their presence only after they are sworn in. All these factors seek to underscore the critical importance of the swearing-in ceremony for Members.


Ceremonial practices While some ceremonies and ceremonial practices associated with the office of Speaker and the Table of the House were adopted and adapted to the Indian ethos,


“Members often take the oath or affirmation in a regional language, as it symbolizes representation of a particular linguistic community.”


not all ceremonies which originated from the House of Commons were adopted by the Indian Parliament. Those that were continued from the colonial period include leading the Speaker on his/her election to the Chair, and those discontinued included the wearing of the robe and wig by the Speaker, and wearing of the robe by the Clerk of the House. Even before Independence in 1946, Shri Mavalankar refused to wear the wig when he was elected as the last President of the Central Legislative Assembly.


A dress code exists for the Secretary General of the Lok Sabha and other officers at the Table as well as parliamentary reporters.2


entails buttoned up coats/tunics/ achkans and matching trousers, which is the traditional Indian dress. Similarly there is also a dress code for Marshals and chamber attendants.


Functions in Central Hall The grand Central Hall of Parliament has always been the natural choice for important parliamentary events. Ceremonial functions are held in the Central Hall for not only welcoming visiting Heads of States and other dignitaries, but also for special conferences like celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Parliament, and the Hiren Mukherjee memorial lectures.3 Other occasions include the rare address to the joint Houses by Heads of States, such as by U.S. President Barrack Obama in 2010. Other functions include the celebrations for the 60th Anniversary of the Lok Sabha, which took place on 13 May 2012; the farewell to outgoing President Smt. Pratibha Devi Patil on 23 July 2012 and the Oath ceremony of newly-elected President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee on 25 July 2012.


Rituals in Parliament “Ritual provides one of the means by which people participate in… dramas and thus see themselves as playing certain roles…it also provokes an emotional response.” (Kertzer, 1988:11).


There are certain courtesies which are traditionally observed in Parliament. One such courtesy is the Marshal announcing the arrival of the Speaker in Lok Sabha. The Members stand and bow to the Speaker/ Presiding Officer as they enter the Lok Sabha Chamber, before taking their seats. This is also done before leaving the Chamber.


This


A Member can only speak when he/she catches the eye of the Speaker, and they address the Speaker or Presiding Officer as ‘Mr Speaker/Madam Speaker’. Members should be present in the House a few minutes before the scheduled time of commencement of sitting, and should keep to his /her usual seat while addressing the House. These ritual courtesies became so


The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three | 195


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