Types of Majority in Parliament

By K Balaji|Updated : September 14th, 2022

The Indian Constitution provides four majorities- Simple Majority, Absolute Majority, Effective Majority, and Special Majority. India follows a parliamentary democracy, where the Parliament takes all major decisions. The Parliament needs a majority to pass a bill and make it into an Act. There are different types of majorities in the Indian Parliament.

Types of Majority is an important segment of Indian polity and the judiciary system. It is important to understand all the types of majority considered while passing or amendment of a bill by properly preparing from the notes/study material available concerning the same. The topic is equally relevant for both UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains.

Table of Content

Types of Majority

The Constitution of India provides four major types of majorities, namely:

  1. Simple majority
  2. Absolute majority
  3. Effective majority
  4. Special majority

The Indian Constitution makes no express distinction between majorities.

Simple Majority in Parliament

This is a majority of more than 50 percent of those members who are present and voting. This could also be referred to as a functional majority, also known as a working majority. In Parliamentary business, the simple majority is one of the most regularly encountered majority types. A simple majority is used when the constitution or laws do not specify the type of majority required.

Examples of when the simple majority is used:

  • Ordinary or Money or Financial bills to be passed.
  • Non-Confidence Motion, Adjournment Motion, Censure Motion, or Confidence Motion to be passed.
  • The simple majority that is required in Lok Sabha to remove the Vice President is A67 (b).
  • Declaring any financial emergency
  • Declare any form of state of emergency (Presidential power).
  • Election of the state legislatures and Lok Sabha Speakers, and Deputy Speakers
  • Article 368 Constitutional Amendment Bills states must approve require just a simple majority in state legislatures.

Absolute Majority

It denotes a majority of more than 50% of the house's total membership. Given that the total number of Lok Sabha members is 242, an absolute majority in Lok Sabha implies - 50% of 242 plus 1, which means 122.

Incidences in which the absolute majority can be used is- Absolute majority is rarely used in the ordinary business of the Parliament or State Legislature. However, this majority is used during the general election to form government at the Centre and States.

Special Majority in Parliament

Article 249 needs a Special Majority of two-thirds of those present and willing to vote. For comparison purposes, if only 150 of the Rajya Sabha's 245 members are present and willing to vote, the special majority required under Article 249 is 101. The cases in which the special majority of article 249 is utilized could be passing a Rajya Sabha authorizing the legislature to build laws on the state list. (this is Valid for one year but could also be renewed an unlimited number of times).

Special Majority in terms of Article 368

Article 368 specifies that a special majority of two-thirds of the members present and willing to vote must be aided by more than half of the overall strength of the house. Most constitutional amendment bills require this type of majority. To carry out a constitution amendment bill in Rajya Sabha, the bill must be backed by more than two-thirds of the members who are willing to vote, along with 123 members.

Cases requiring a special majority under Article 368:

  • Passing an amendment bill in the constitution has no impact on federalism.
  • To pass a constitutional amendment bill that has no impact on federalism.
  • CEC/CAG removal.
  • Permitting a national emergency needs a special majority in both houses under Article 368.
  • Resolution of the state legislature establishing/abolishing the Legislative Council (Article 169).

What is an Effective Majority?

The term "effective majority of the parliamentary house" refers to greater than 50% of the total effective strength of the house. Unoccupied seats are subtracted from the total number of seats to understand it better. The phrase "all the then members" used in the Indian Constitution signifies the term effective majority. For instance, in Rajya Sabha, if there are 42 vacancies out of 242 members, the productive strength of the house would be 200. The effective majority, in this case, would be 50% of 200 and the addition of 1, which makes it 101.

Examples of when the effective majority is put to use:

  1. Removal of the Vice-President in the Republic of Serbia - Article 67 (b).
  2. Removal of Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly Speakers and Deputy Speakers

According to Article 368 + 50 Percent State Ratification by a Simple Majority

When an amendment bill in the constitution attempts to change the federal structure, a special majority is required. A special majority, being defined in Article 368, and ratification by the state requires a simple majority of more than 50 percent of the legislatures of the states, present, and voting. An example is a bill that established the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). It is said to require the backing of at minimum 15 of the 29 existing state legislatures.

Cases in which a special majority, according to Article 368 plus the state ratification, is utilized for clearing an amendment bill in the constitution that impacts federalism, such as the placement of High Court justices.

Special Majority in terms of Article 61

Article 61 requires a special majority of two-thirds of the full strength in the house. The special majority required by article 61 in the Lok Sabha is 364; in the Rajya Sabha, the special majority required by article 61 would be 164.

The cases in which a special majority is used under Article 61 could be for the Impeachment of the President of India.

Types of Majority UPSC

Types of Majority is one of the important topics of the Indian political system. Hence it reserves an important place in the UPSC Exam. The topic is covered both in the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. One should also go through the UPSC Study Material and also keep a look out for the Current Affairs as well, as to not skip out on any updates.

It is also crucial to go through the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to understand the frequently asked questions in relation to this topic. It is also advised to go through the Polity Books for UPSC.

>> Download Types of Majority UPSC Notes PDF

Types of Majority UPSC Sample Question

Question: The following types of the special majority or considered while passing or amendment of a bill in the Parliament:

  1. Special majority as per article 249
  2. Special majority as per article 368
  3. Special majority as per article 368+50% state ratification by a simple majority
  4. Special majority as per article 61

Choose the most suitable options from the following:

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 1,2 and 4
  4. All of the above

Answer: Option D

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FAQs on Types of Majority

  • An absolute majority symbolizes a majority of more than 50% of the total membership of the House. Given a total of 242 Lok Sabha members, an absolute majority in Lok Sabha implies - 50% of 242 plus 1, or 122. Instances where the absolute majority can be applied, include, In the ordinary business of the Parliament or State Legislature, an absolute majority is rarely used. However, during the general election, this majority is used to form government at the Centre and in the states.

  • This represents a majority of more than 50% of those in attendance and voting. This is also known as a working majority or a functional majority. The simple majority is the most common type of majority in parliamentary proceedings. The simple majority is used when the constitution or laws do not specify the type of majority required.

  • The different types of Special Majority include the following:

    • Special Majority as Per Article 249.
    • Special Majority as per Article 368.
    • Special Majority as per Article 368 + 50 percent state ratification by a simple majority.
    • Special Majority as per Article 61.
  • According to Article 61, a special majority of two-thirds of the house's entire membership is required. In the Lok Sabha, a special majority of 364 votes is needed to pass an amendment; in the Rajya Sabha, a special majority of 164 votes is needed. The impeachment of the Indian President is one of the situations in which Article 61 calls for the employment of a special majority.

  • Click here to download the Types of Majority UPSC Notes PDF.

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