Point of order

Context: Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar rejected a point of order raised
by Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge against Union Minister and Leader of the
House Piyush Goyal for his speech in the House targeting Congress leader Rahul

What is the point of Order? 

  • The Lok Sabha Secretariat describes a Point of order as “an extraordinary process which, when raised, has the effect of suspending the proceedings before the House.
  • Point of order concerns the procedure and business of the House and the rule book says that “it should relate to arrangement of items already included in the List of Business for the day”.
  • Raising a point of order is “meant to assist the Speaker in enforcing the rules, directions and provisions of the Constitution for regulating the business of the House”.
  • Thus, it can concern both the application of the rules of the House and even any principles enshrined in the Constitution.
  • The procedure vis-a-vis a point of order is covered by Rule 376 of the Lok Sabha rules and by Rule 258 in Rajya Sabha.

When is it raised? 

  • The point of order is concerned with rules of procedure vis-a-vis “a breach of order or a transgression of any written or unwritten law of the House”, a wide range of issues can be flagged under a point of order.
  • Further, the test whether a point raised is a point of order or not is not whether the Chair can give any relief but whether it involves such interpretation or enforcement of the rules, etc. and whether it raises a point which the Chair alone can decide.
  • But there are also issues involved with Point of order as it is “one of the most vexatious parliamentary practices which confronts a presiding officer” as the practice “raises real problems for the presiding officer”.
  • This is because, unlike the procedures for raising questions or flagging issues in Parliament, most of which involve the giving of prior notice by a member or seeking the presiding officer’s permission, a point of order does not need prior notice and is supposed to receive precedence over any matter that the House may be dealing with right then.

The problem for the presiding officer lies in the fact that, until he hears at least a substantial part of a member’s submission, he (the Chair) is not in a position to rule that it is not a point of order.

How is it raised? 

  • To raise a point of order, a member has just to stand up and say ‘Point of Order’, whereupon she or he has to be first identified by the presiding officer.
  • The member should elaborate on his/her concern only after being identified by the presiding officer. “While formulating her/his point of order, the member should quote the specific rule or the provision of the Constitution relating to the procedure of the House which may have been ignored or neglected or violated.
  • Further it should be noted that a point of order cannot be raised during the Question Hour, or when the House is taking up any motion.
  • It may not be used for a member to ask for information, or to explain her/his position, etc.
  • Also, a point of order regarding an item of business cannot be raised after such business has been disposed of.

Thus it can be concluded that a point of order must refer to procedure and not substantive arguments on a motion.

What happens when it is raised? 

  • The moment a point of order is raised by one member, “the member who is speaking at that time must give way and resume his seat” and it “has the effect of suspending the proceedings before the House”.
  • It is the presiding officer who decides whether “a point raised is a point of order or not”. No debate is allowed on a point of order, but the presiding officer may hear the member before giving her/his decision.

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