Parliamentary Terms & Motions



Adjournment: When a sitting of an assembly is discontinued, to be resumed after some time, it is a temporary adjournment. When time for the resumed sitting is not specified, it is called adjournment sine die. A sitting can be adjourned by the Presiding Officer of the Assembly according to the rules framed by the Assembly in this behalf or on a resolution being passed by it.

Bicameral States: are those States which like Union government have two Houses of Legislature as against unicameral States which have only one House of Legislature.

Bill: Draft law presented to the Legislature for enactment.

By-Election: election to a seat rendered vacant during the running term of an elected person. This might occur on resignation, death or any other subsequent disqualification of the member originally elected.

Cabinet: Usually a synonym for “Council of Ministers”.

Cabinet, Shadow: is a team of men selected by the party in opposition to take over the different portfolios in case the party is able to wrest power.

Caucus: A conference held by convention delegates or political leaders to determine strategy or discuss candidates. In a general sense, a caucus is a meeting of a group of politically-interested people seeking to work out a common plan of action.

Climb on the bandwagon: To support a candidate who appears likely to win an election. (A term used in US Presidential election.)

Committee: A body of persons appointed or elected for performing specified tasks; may be small group within a larger body.

Concurrent power: Powers that are shared by federal and constituent governments under a federal constitution. Where laws in an area of concurrency conflict, the federal law is normally paramount. For example, education and health are areas where Union government and State governments in India hold concurrent powers.

Constituency: A unit (geographical or otherwise) that elects one or more members to the Legislature or other bodies.

Constitutional bodies: Entities created by the constitution for specified tasks.

Crossing the Floor: When a member of Parliament or a Legislature leaves the opposition to join the party in power or vice versa, he or she is said to have defected or crossed the floor.

Cross-voting: Cross-voting is said to have occurred when members of the party in power and the party in opposition break these barriers and cast their votes on either side without regard to party affiliations.

Decentralization: A process of governance where constituent units exercise administrative, legislative and/or fiscal authority. The process is also defined in the transfer of authority from central government to lower levels of government in political, administrative and territorial hierarchy.

Dissolution: When due to a breakdown of the constitutional machinery in a State, the Governor recommends a fresh poll, the existing State Assembly is dissolved which means that its members cease to be representatives of the people who had elected them.

Election: The process of selecting a person of choice through voting.

Election Commission: A constitutional body with responsibility for conducting elections.

Enabling legislation: Legislation that gives specified officials the authority to implement or enforce a law.

Extra constitutional: Something that is not provided for in the constitution, for example an extra-constitutional power. Extra-constitutional does not necessarily mean unconstitutional, that is, in violation of the constitution.

Extra judicial: A measure undertaken without proper judicial authorization and contrary to the law. For example, an extra-judicial execution.

Federalism: A form of government in which power is divided between the Federal, or National, government and the State governments.

Filibuster: is indulging in long-winded speeches, not necessarily relevant, to obstruct, delay or bargain over the enactment of a measure under consideration.

First-Past-the-Post system: An electoral system in which the one who receives more votes than any other candidate gets elected.

Gallup Poll: A system, introduced by Dr Gallup of the USA for testing public opinion on topical subjects by taking a test poll on questions framed to elicit opinions.

Gerrymandering: connotes a wavy or irregular redistribution of electoral constituencies so as to give undue advantage to a particular political party.

Impeachment: Process under which charges are brought in Parliament against a high constitutional authority, public official or judge.

Judicial review: Powers of the courts to decide upon the constitutionality of a Legislative or an Executive act and invalidate that act if it is determined to be contrary to constitutional provisions or principles.

Jurisdiction: The territorial or legislative fields over which an order of government, including the judiciary, has the authority to make laws.

Lame-duck Session: of Parliament is the session held when a new Parliament has been elected as a result of general elections but the old Parliament meets for the last time before it completes its term and is dissolved.

The members of the Legislature who fail to get re-elected but continue to function as legislatures until the new legislature meets, are known as Lame-ducks. The term Lame-duck was first used in USA but now it has become an integral part of the political vocabulary of all democratic countries of the world.

Leftists and Rightists: Leftists is a term generally used to describe people who favour change from a bourgeoisie to a proletarian society. Rightists are those who believe in conservatism i.e., keeping things as they are or maintaining the status quo.

Legislation: The process of making enacted law; the body of enacted laws (note: an individual law is not ‘a legislation’ but a ‘piece of legislation’ or ‘a statue’).

Lobbying: means to frequent the small hall or waiting room or a pssage serving as a common entrance to several apartments of an Assembly Hall (or Parliament) for the purpose of influencing members or to collect political intelligence.

Local self-government: Government of an area smaller than the territory of a federation or a constituent unit of a federation. This may be called a village, town, city, county, district or region. True self-government implies a democratically elected body representing the local inhabitants with sufficient autonomy and resources to pursue locally determined priorities.

Majority, absolute: Complete majority – that is of more than half, not just the largest number of votes.

Mid-term Poll: is an election held out of schedule as a result of the dissolution of Legislature before it has been in existence for its normal span of life.

Minority community: A sub-group within a larger population, which may live on a given territory, which does not form either a majority or a plurality. Definitions of a minority group sometimes refer to a group that is disadvantaged in relation to a dominant group in terms of its social status, education, employment, health and political power, whatever its numerical size.

Oligarchy: A form of government where political power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society (whether distinguished by wealth, family, military powers or spiritual hegemony). The word oligarchy is translated into ‘rule by few’. It needs to be understood in contrast to democracy.

Ombudsman: A Swedish word meaning ‘spokesperson’ but referring to an official receiving complaints from the public and able to inquire into them, usually relating to behaviour of officials.

Ordinances: Provisional law made by the executive under the authority of the constitution and not of another statue.

People Sniffer: A political term indicating indictment of a government policy expressed through unofficial media.

Preamble: The preamble is the introductory part of the constitution that normally sets out some, or all, of the following: the history of the constitution, the values and aspirations of the people, the nature of the state and the authority under which the constitution is made. The preamble is still one of the oldest and most common ways of incorporating values and may also hold great symbolic significance.

Proclamation: A formal public statement.

Promulgate: Put a law into effect by a formal proclamation.

Proportional representation: A system of electing members of the Legislature, in which the number of seats allocated to a particular party is determined by the percentage of the popular vote won by that party.

Prorogation: Besides the methods described in “Adjournment” in accordance with which an Assembly may be adjourned, the Governor too can, on the advice of the Chief Minister or in his discretion prorogue the Assembly under Article 174(2)(a) of the Constitution. Like ‘adjournment’, prorogation too has the effect of discontinuing the meetings of the Assembly for a time without dissolving it.

Question Hour: When Parliament is in session, the proceedings usually start each day with Question Hour. Members can ask for oral or written replies to their questions on every aspect of administration and government policy in both national and international spheres. Each member is allowed a quota of five admitted questions per day. The final admissibility of a question is decided by the Speaker.

Quorum: The minimum number of members of an organization (e.g. Parliament) needed to conduct business.

Quota: An assigned share, for example of parliamentary seats, assigned to a specific group of people (ethnic group, women, religious group, linguistic group, etc.).

Ratification: Formal improval of document (by the Parliament).

Referendum: A popular vote by the electorate to decide an issue, not to choose people.

Representative government: A system of government where the legislative and executive bodies are filled, directly or indirectly, through a process of regular elections.

Reservation: A process of positive discrimination to ensure adequate representation of marginalized groups in legislative and executive positions.

Resolution: A formal decision made by a body like Parliament.

Secular State: A secular State is a State or a country that is officially neutral in matters of religion, neither supporting nor opposing any particular religious system.

Self-determination: In modern international law, a collective “people’s right” to govern their affairs. This may not equate to a right to nationhood, but at a minimum ensures the right of a people to preserve its language and heritage.

Snap Vote: A snap vote is voting unexpectedly recorded without the voters having been briefed in advance by party whips.

Sovereignty: The principle that the State exercises absolute power over its territory and population. It also includes the freedom of a State to determine its foreign relations with other States and be a member of international organizations.

Starred and Un-starred Questions: When asking questions members of Parliament may ask for either oral or written answers. Questions to which oral answers are required are marked with an asterisk, and are known as Starred Questions. Questions requiring written replies are Unstarred Questions.

Veto: Valid power that one can exercise to block a decision (e.g. the power that a head of State has to reject a Bill passed by the Legislature).

Zero Hour: The “Zero Hour” is the time allotted in the House every day for miscellaneous business i.e., call-attention notices, questions on official statements and adjournment motions. Its duration is not specified.


Adjournment Motion: At the end of the question hour in Parliament, any member thereof may table a motion seeking adjournment of the House “for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance.” Such a move is called an Adjournment Motion. The notice for moving the Motion for adjournment of the business of the House is required to be given to the Presiding Officer of the House.

Call-attention Motion: A member of Parliament may, with prior permission of the Speaker, call the attention of a minister to any matter of “urgent public importance” and the minister may make a brief statement or ask for time to make a statement at a later hour or date. A motion of this nature is known as a call-attention motion.

Censure Motion: means a motion of no-confidence in a government.

Cut Motion: It is a device which members can employ to reduce the amount of a demand. It may be done either by refusing the Demand which is called a disapproval of policy cut. In such cases, the cut motion is that “the amount of the Demand be reduced to Re 1”. The other type of cut motion is termed as “Economy Cut” and according to it the Demand be reduced by a specific sum.

No-confidence Motion: Or “No-trust Motion” is a motion moved by a member to express lack of confidence in the Government for any reason. The motion, if allowed, is debated upon. At the conclusion of such a debate, a vote of confidence is sought by the Government and if it fails to get the required majority of vote, it has to submit its resignation forthwith.

Privilege Motion: is a motion moved by a member if he feels that a Minister has committed a breach of privilege of the House or of any one or more of its members by withholding the facts of a case or by giving a distorted version of facts etc.

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