No-Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha

The No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's NDA government is being debated in the Lok Sabha.

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The Lok Sabha debates the No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s NDA government. Gaurav Gogoi, Member of Lok Sabha of the Indian National Congress, gave notice of the motion, which has now been scheduled for discussion on the 8th and 9th of August 2023, with the Prime Minister of India responding on the 10th of August 2023. It would be interesting to learn more about this most potent parliamentary device.

The Motion of No-Confidence in the Council of Ministers:

Only in Lok Sabha may a motion of no confidence be introduced. The notion of collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers led by the Prime Minister to Lok Sabha – the House of People – is a key premise of parliamentary democracy. This is a collective and indivisible responsibility. The House of People’s (Lok Sabha) collective ministerial responsibility is at the heart of India’s parliamentary democracy. According to Article 75(3) of the Indian Constitution, “the Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of People.” To remain in power, the Council of Ministers must have the support of the House of People. When it appears that the Government (Party in Power) lacks majority support, the well-established procedural device of Motion of No-confidence under Rule 198(1) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha is invoked to test the majority of the Government of the day. As a result, a No Confidence Motion can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha. Moving a No-Confidence Motion could be considered a device (weapon) of last resort when a section of Lok Sabha Members move against the Government, indicating a lack of trust in the Government, or the prevailing administration.

In interpreting Article 75(3), the Supreme Court of India in U.N.R. Rao vs Smt. Indira Gandhi (A.I.R. 1971, SC) observed:

“Article 75(3) brings into existence what is usually called ‘Responsible Government’. In other words, the Council of Ministers must enjoy the confidence of the House of the People. While the House of the People is not dissolved under art. 85(2)(b), art 73(3) has full operation. But when it is dissolved, the Council of Ministers cannot naturally enjoy the confidence of the House of the People. Art. 75(3) only applies when the House of the People does not stand dissolved.”

Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha provides the provisions for moving a No-Confidence Motion.

The procedure for moving a No-Confidence Motion is explained briefly:

A motion expressing want of confidence in the Council of Ministers may be made subject to the following restrictions:

(a) leave to make the Motion shall be asked for by the Member when called by the Speaker;

(b) the Member asking for leave shall by 10.00 hours on that day give the Secretary-General a written notice of the Motion which such member proposes to move.

As per proviso to this Rule, notices received after 10.00 hrs on a day shall be deemed accepted at 10.00 hrs on the next day the House sits.

Suppose the Speaker believes that the Motion is in order. In that case, the Speaker shall read the Motion to the House and shall request those members who are in favour of leave being granted to rise in their places. If at least fifty members rise accordingly, the Speaker shall declare that leave is granted and that the Motion will be taken up on such day, not being more than ten days from the date on which the leave is asked for as the Speaker may appoint. If less than fifty members rise, the Speaker shall inform that the member has not the leave of the House. In case several notices of No-Confidence Motion are received for the same sitting, the notices are balloted to determine their inter se priority. Notices which are held to be in order are taken up one by one in the order of their priority. In case leave of the House, the first Motion is granted, then all other Motions become fructuous. On the other hand, if leave of the House to move the first Motion is not granted, the second Motion is taken up, and so on.

If leave is granted, the Speaker may, after considering the state of business in the House, allot a day or part of a day for the discussion of the Motion. A Motion so admitted has to be listed for debate on a day not exceeding ten days from the day the Motion has been admitted. While it is not as such specified the mode of computation of the ten days, it is settled practice that in computing the ten days, the Session days/working days of Parliament alone are considered. This means the intervening weekend or weekends, closed holidays and parliamentary holidays are not considered.

It is well established that “When leave of the House to the moving of a motion has been granted, no substantive motion on policy matters is to be brought before the House by the Government till the motion of no-confidence has been disposed of”. [Practice and Procedure of Parliament by M. N. Kaul & S. L. Shakdher, 7th Edn., p. 772, Lok Sabha Debates dated 25-7-1966, c. 230; 26-7-1966, c. 457; 27-7-1966. c. 777; 24-7-1974, c. 221]

After that, the Speaker shall immediately put every question necessary to determine the decision of the House on the Motion at the appointed hour on the allotted day or the last of the allotted days.

The Speaker may prescribe a time limit for speeches.

A No-Confidence Motion is distinct from a censure motion. A motion of No-Confidence need not set out any ground or charges on which it is based. The grounds do not form part of the Motion. The standard format of a No-Confidence Motion is “That this House expresses its confidence in the Council of Ministers”.

Once a motion of No-Confidence Motion is adopted, the Government of the day has to resign as it indicates that the Government does not enjoy the confidence/the requisite majority to govern.

No-Confidence Motions discussed so far.

During the third Lok Sabha in 1963, Acharya J B Kripalani moved the first Motion of no confidence against the government headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The debate on the Motion lasted 21 hours over four days, with 40 MPs participating. This No-Confidence Motion was defeated.

The Motion of No-Confidence Motions has been discussed in Lok Sabha on 27 occasions. There had been 15 No-Confidence Motions against the Government headed by Smt. Indira Gandhi. All these Motions were defeated.

As the head of the government, the Prime Minister responds to the debate on the No-Confidence Motion. However, there have been two exceptions to the established approach. Shri Y. V. Chavan of the INC filed a No-Confidence Motion in the 6th Lok Sabha against the Janata Party government led by Shri Morarji Desai. This No-Confidence Motion was debated on July 12, 1979. However, the debate was inconclusive since Shri Morarji Desai resigned before the Motion could be voted. Shri George Fernandes filed a No-Confidence Motion in the 7th Lok Sabha against the government led by Smt. Indira Gandhi. The Prime Minister was on a nine-day official tour when the warning was issued. The then-government believed that this Motion may be debated when Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then-Prime Minister, returned from her pre-scheduled official tour. The opposition, on the other hand, was not on board. In these conditions, Shri R. Venkatraman responded to the No-Confidence Motion on May 9, 1981. This Motion was voted down.

A list of No-Confidence Motions discussed to date is as below:

S.No. Mover Prime Minister Date of Voting Members Participated Prime Minister replied
1 Shri J.B. Kripalani Shri J.L. Nehru 22.8.63 44 YES
2 Shri N.C. Chatterjee Shri L.B. Shastri 18.9.64 57 YES
3 Shri S.N. Dwivedy Shri L.B. Shastri 16.3.65 19 YES
4 Shri M.R. Masani Shri L.B. Shastri 26.8.65 37 YES
5 Shri H.N. Mukherjee Smt. Indira Gandhi 4.8.66 37 YES
6 Shri U.M. Trivedi Smt. Indira Gandhi 7.11.66 29 YES
7 Shri A.B. Vajpayee- I Smt. Indira Gandhi 20.3.67 23 YES
8 Shri Madhu Limaye- I Smt. Indira Gandhi 24.11.67 26 YES
9 Shri Balraj Madhok Smt. Indira Gandhi 28.2.68 20 YES
10 Shri K.L. Gupta Smt. Indira Gandhi 13.11.68 22 YES
11 Shri P. Ramamurti Smt. Indira Gandhi 20.2.69 26 YES
12 Shri Madhu Limaye- II Smt. Indira Gandhi 29.7.70 29 YES
13 Shri Jyotirmoy Bosu-I Smt. Indira Gandhi 22.11.73 19 YES
14 Shri Jyotirmoy Bosu-II Smt. Indira Gandhi 10.5.74 31 YES
15 Shri Jyotirmoy Bosu-III Smt. Indira Gandhi 25.7.74 25 YES
16 Shri Jyotirmoy Bosu-IV Smt. Indira Gandhi 9.5.75 16 YES
17 Shri C.M. Stephen Shri Morarji Desai 11.5.78 28 YES
18 Shri Y.B. Chavan Shri Morarji Desai 12.7.79 23 Discussion remained inconclusive; Prime Minister resigned subsequently
19 Shri George Fernandes Smt. Indira Gandhi 9.5.81 21 Prime Minister was on an official nine-day tour
20 Shri Samar Mukherjee Smt. Indira Gandhi 17.9.81 19 YES
21 Shri H.N. Bahuguna Smt. Indira Gandhi 16.8.82 25 YES
22 Shri C. Madhav Reddy Shri Rajiv Gandhi 11.12.87 22 YES
23 Shri Jaswant Singh Shri Narasimha Rao 17.7.92 24 YES
24 Shri A.B. Vajpayee- I Shri Narasimha Rao 21.12.92 57 YES
25 Shri Ajoy Mukhopadhyay Narasimha Rao 28.7.93 30 YES
26 Smt. Sonia Gandhi Shri A.B. Vajpayee 19.8.2003 39 YES
27 Shri Srinivas Kesineni Shri Narendra Modi 20.07.2018 51 YES