A prorogation which is a temporary recess of Parliament, should not extend to a period of more than two months, However, such date for summoning Parliament may be advanced by another Presidential Proclamation provided it is summoned for a date not less than three days from the date of such fresh proclamation. When Parliament is prorogued, the Proclamation should notify the date for the commencement of the new Session of Parliament under Paragraph (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.
Historical Background of Prorogation
(a) Tradition of the House of Commons
Famous British Constitutional Theorist Erskine May in his ‘Parliamentary Practice’ states: “The prorogation of Parliament is a prerogative act of the Crown. Just as Parliament can commence its deliberations only at the time appointed by the Queen, so it cannot continue them any longer than she pleases. But each House exercises its right to adjourn itself independently of the Crown and of the other House. In the House of Commons, the duration of a periodic adjournment, as opposed to the adjournments which occur each day, is determined by a Resolution.”
Erskine May in the 24th edition further states: “The effect of a prorogation is at once to suspend all Business, including Committee proceedings, until Parliament shall be summoned again, and to end the sittings of Parliament. Until recently, all proceedings pending at a prorogation were quashed, except for impeachments by the Commons and judicial proceedings before the House of Lords, and private Bills and hybrid Bills, which may be suspended from one Session to another. As a result of recommendations by the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons the Commons passed a Standing Order to allow public Bills to be carried over by order from one Session to another, subject to certain restrictions. The Lords have also endorsed the carry-over of public Bills in certain circumstances.”
Parliament is prorogued either by a Commission (preceded by a Proclamation) or by a proclamation alone. At the close of a Session, according to the usual procedure, the prorogation of Parliament is effected by an announcement made to both Houses that Parliament should be prorogued by one of the Commissioners of a Royal Commission.
The Civil Contingencies Act of 2004 requires that where emergency regulations are made and Parliament stands prorogued for more than five days, the Queen shall issue a proclamation for Parliament to meet on a specified day within that period.
(b) Tradition of the Indian Parliament
M.N. Kaul and S.L. Shakdher in ‘Practice and Procedure of Parliament’ (ed. P.D.T. Achary) states: Termination of a Session of the House by an order made by the President under Article 85 (2) of the Constitution of Indian is called ‘prorogation’. The President, in exercising the power to prorogue the House, acts on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister may consult the Cabinet before the advice is submitted to the President. Prorogation of the House may take place any time, even while the House is sitting. Usually, however, prorogation follows the adjournment of the sitting of the House sine die.
In India, after the adjournment of Lok Sabha sine die, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs or the Leader of the House sends a communication to the Secretary-General conveying the intention of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet to prorogue the House.
The proposal of the Prime Minister, after being agreed to by the Speaker, is submitted to the President by the Secretary-General. After the President has made the order it is notified in the Gazette Extraordinary of the day on which the order is received in the Secretariat. Simultaneously, a paragraph is issued in the Bulletin informing the members of the prorogation of Lok Sabha. Besides, a press communiqué is also issued. All India Radio and Doordarshan/L.S. TV channels are also asked to broadcast/telecast the news.
In India, prorogation terminates a Session and does not constitute an interruption in the continuity of life of Lok Sabha which is brought to an end only by dissolution.
In India, under Article 107 (3), Bills pending before either House are expressly saved from lapsing upon prorogation. Bills before Select or Joint Committees are also protected. Under the Rules of Procedure, motions, resolutions and amendments which have already been moved and are pending in the House do not lapse on prorogation and are carried over to the next Session. The Rules and Procedure specifically provide that any Business pending before a Committee shall not lapse by reason only of the prorogation of the House and the Committee shall continue to function notwithstanding such prorogation.
Effect of Prorogation in Our Parliament
During the prorogation the Speaker continues to function and the Members retain their membership even though they do not attend meetings of Parliament. The effect of a prorogation is to suspend all current Business before the House and all proceedings pending at the time are quashed except impeachments. A Bill, motion or question of the same substance cannot be introduced for a second time during the same Session. However, it could be carried forward at a subsequent Session after a prorogation.
Pending Business of Parliament
“All matters which having been duly brought before Parliament, have not been disposed of at the time of the prorogation of Parliament, may be proceeded with during the next Session,” states the Paragraph (4) of Article 70 of the Constitution.
In the light of this constitutional provision, a prorogation does not put an end to pending Business. Thus, a pending matter may be proceeded with from that stage onwards after the commencement of the new Session. At the beginning of a new Session all items of Business which were in the Order Paper of Parliament need to be re-listed, if it is desired to continue with them.
Committees of Parliament
In terms of Standing Orders of Parliament No. 114, the Committee of Selection has to be appointed and therefore, all the following Committees for Special Purposes cease to function during the recess or the prorogation of Parliament and all of them have to be re-constituted at the commencement of each Session of Parliament except the Committee on High Posts, Sectoral Oversight Committees and Select Committees of Parliament as per provisions of Standing Order of Parliament Nos. 124(5), 111(2) and 109 respectively:-
- the Committee on Parliamentary Business;
- the Committee on Standing Orders;
- the House Committee;
- the Committee on Ethics and Privileges;
- the Legislative Standing Committee;
- the Ministerial Consultative Committees;
- the Committee on Public Accounts;
- the Committee on Public Enterprises;
- the Committee on Public Finance;
- the Committee on Public Petitions;
- the Committee on High Posts; and
- the Backbencher Committee.
Panel of Chairs
At the commencement of every Session of Parliament a Panel of Chairs of not less than four Members to act as temporary Chair of Committees when requested by the Deputy Speaker or in the absence of the Deputy Speaker, by the Deputy Chairperson of Committees has to be nominated by the Speaker.
Commencement of the New Session
At the end of a prorogation a new Session begins and is ceremonially declared open by the President. He is empowered under the Constitution to make a Statement of Government Policy in Parliament at the commencement of each Session of Parliament and to preside at ceremonial sittings of Parliament in terms of the provisions stipulated in Paragraph (2) of Article 33 of the Constitution.
Inaugural Sessions of Parliament of Sri Lanka
Parliament records reveal that Parliament had been prorogued about fifty times to date since 1947 and more than 25 Sessions since 1978 are indicated below:-
- The First Parliament commenced on 07.09.1978 had Seven Sessions until its dissolution on 20.12.1988;
- The Second Parliament commenced on 09.03.1989 had Five Sessions until its dissolution on 24.06.1994;
- The Third Parliament commenced on 25.08.1994 had Three Sessions until its dissolution on 18.08.2000;
- The Fourth Parliament commenced on 18.10.2000 had Three Sessions until its dissolution on 10.10.2001;
- The Fifth Parliament commenced on 19.12.2001 had Two Sessions until its dissolution on 09.02.2004;
- The Sixth Parliament commenced on 22.04.2004 had Four Sessions until its dissolution on 09.02.2010;
(Dissolved Parliament was reconvened on 09.03.2010 and on 06.04.2010 for Emergency Regulations to be passed)
- The Seventh Parliament commenced on 22.04.2010 had only One Session until its dissolution on 26.06.2015;
- The Eighth Parliament commenced on 01.09.2015 and had Three Sessions to date.
Parliament was summoned during prorogation by the Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonetilleke on the 27th of May 1958 to communicate the declaration of the State of Emergency when communal violence broke out. Accordingly, Parliament met on the 04th of June 1958. It was a unique situation.
Statement of Government Policy
The President is empowered to make a statement of Government Policy at the commencement of each new Session. In the past, it was known as the Throne Speech which was delivered by the Governor-General.
Mr. Dudley Senanayake’s UNP Government was defeated on 22nd April 1960. The Governor-General Sir Oliver Goonetilleka read the Throne Speech on 6th April, 1960. The Opposition’s Address of Thanks as amended was carried by 86 votes to 61 with 8 MPs declined to vote. Original Question as amended: Ayes 93, Noes 61 and One MP Declined to vote.
With the evolution of the Parliament of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in 1978, Statements made by the President are neither debated nor put to the vote.