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developed into a healthy everyday ritual practice.

Gandhi statue

A majestic statue of Mahatma Gandhi was installed on 2 October 1993 opposite Gate no. 1 of Parliament House. The statue is 16 feet in height and was unveiled by Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then President of India.

The statue of Mahatma Gandhi sitting in an introspective posture inspires such awe that many State Legislatures have also followed suit in installing Gandhi statues in front of various Assembly House precincts. Of late, Members of Parliament particularly those belonging to opposition parties have on occasions started sitting in front of the Gandhi statue while protesting on certain issues before commencement of the sitting of the day.

of dignitaries on their birthday has taken place since 1992. This takes place in the Central Hall, at around 10.30am so that the there is no interruption to the session in the House. These rituals of recent origin are observed in a more or less informal manner, which interestingly lends credence and an emotive feel to these functions. Members of the party of the dignitary who is being honoured, as well as Members from other parties attend the event. A floral garland adorns the portrait, and the Speaker and other senior Members place flowers at the table under the portrait.

References by the Speaker References are made by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to commemorate landmark events, solemn occasions, congratulatory references etc. The Speaker also makes valedictory references on the last day of a session highlighting business transacted by the House during

the session. Similarly it is the usual practice for the Speaker to make valedictory reference on the last day of the last session of the Lok Sabha. This making of references by the Speaker has become a formalized procedural element of the Speaker’s role. References made by the Speaker in Lok Sabha carry immense significance because these are construed to indicate the sense of the nation on the subject on which reference is made.

An area of convergence Central Hall has also emerged as a convergence point for Ministers, Members and at times even Chief Ministers. Former Members, media persons etc also congregate here for informal talks. On many an occasion such talks facilitate amicable resolution of issues .This has of late evolved as some kind of tacit tradition. There is something warm, positive and in some manner democratic in this convergence. It has since

Gradually, a ritual has developed that Members protest and sit in front of the Gandhi statue. Provisions of Direction 124A of the Directions by the Speaker insist that for any sit-in protest in the precincts of Parliament House, prior permission is required. Such protests are made in front of Gandhi statue for its powerful symbolism. This also has emerged as an innovative ritual peculiar to the psyche of democratic polity in India.


Ceremony and ritual has a potent hold on our imaginations, something that is reflected in our formal and informal practices. Ceremonies are repeated to give affect; we come to expect certain ways of doing things as appropriate and others not. Ceremonies are also aesthetic events – care is taken with decorating spaces, places and offering floral tributes.

Everyday rituals also evolve and take root – not always in a grand or formal way, but in informal and everyday methods of working in Parliament. The article has outlined various examples of how rituals are introduced, take root and are supported by Members and officers of Parliament.

The ceremonies and rituals that get institutionalised tend to signify the acceptance of authority of the institutions among its Members, as well as the reception of its work. In a democratic polity it is the acceptance and regard for representative institutions such as Parliament/ Legislatures by the society which is of utmost importance for the successful working of a democracy. It is in such a scenario that ceremonies and rituals in Parliament assume significance. These in fact blend into our heritage. Disturbance or disruption of these alerts others to the health of the institution – where the reporting of such instances in the media can damage the reputation of Parliament. Hence, the importance of having awareness of the ceremonies and ritual of our Parliament should not be viewed upon as “optional extras” but as an essential part of institutional life.


1. In the nascent stages of democracy in Eng- land, there had been instances of beheading of some Speakers on the diktats from the Crown. Ever since a practice has emerged by way of reassurance from all sections of the House of regard which they had for the Speaker and their concern for his well being, to escort Speaker to his Chair on his election. The Speaker feigns reluctance to take up the office because of its history and is symbolically ‘dragged’ to the Speaker’s chair. 2. In the House of Commons Hansard reporters are seated in the Gallery behind the Speaker’s chair. The reason being it was formerly a tradition in House of Commons that no taking of notes be taken in the view of the Speaker. While there has been some easing on this position the tradition nevertheless continues. In Lok Sabha ,however, parliamentary reporters are seated at the Table around the arc towards the end of the Table of the House. 3. Some of the illustrative instances are: Hiren Mukherjee Memorial Lectures, inaugural memo- rial lecture delivered by Prof. Amartya Sen on 11 August 2008; Second lecture by Prof. Mohd. Yunnus on 9 December 2009; Third lecture by Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati on 2 December 2010; Fourth lecture delivered by H.E. Lyonchhen Jigmy Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan on 20 December 2011.

The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three | 197

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