Speaker rules Bill duly passes despite lack of quorum

posted on: 12-04-2014

The Island – April 10, 2014

By Saman Indrajith

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa yesterday announced to Parliament that Medical (Amendments) Bill to provide for the setting up of a Medical Faculty at the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University had been legally passed despite the fact that there was no quorum in the House.

Making a special announcement, the Speaker said that he had studied the point of order raised by Galle District Independent MP Ajith Kumara on March 21, 2014 pertaining to the passing of the Medical (Amendments) Bill on March 20, 2014.

The Speaker said: According to the Standing Order No 20, the quorum in the House should be 20 with the member in the Chair. Whenever, a member points out that there was no quorum in the House, the Chair should ring the quorum bell for five minutes. If the quorum bell does not summon the required number of members, the House should be adjourned. This had been amply explained in the Section No 73 of the Constitution.

According to the provisions of the Section 42 of the Standing Orders, the division bell is rung for two minutes whenever a division is asked by a member with regard to a bill.

Provisions of the Section 72 of the Constitution indicate “Save as otherwise provided in the Constitution any question proposed for decision by Parliament shall be decided by the majority of votes of the Members present and voting.”

Further, the Sections 38 (2) (c) and 107 (2) of the Constitution have provided for the occasions where a majority of votes needed. Such occasions have been named in the Section 41 and 135 of Standing Orders of Parliament.

According to these provisions, the quorum of 20 members in the House is not mandatory at the time of vote taking if a member has not raised the issue at that time.

Additionally, if a member feels that he or she should raise the quorum issue, he or should do so prior to a bill being passed but not after the passing of it.

However, I personally am of the opinion that a sufficient number of members should be present in the Chamber whenever an important bill is being passed. I would also like to emphasize that if I feel the number of members were below the quorum on occasions such as a bill being passed, I would not hesitate to postpone the passing of bills.

I announced that Medical (Amendments) Bill had been duly passed on March 20, 2014.

Speaker Rajapaksa thanked MP Ajith Kumara for raising a point of order of importance.

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