In India, the process of how a bill becomes a law involves several stages and is outlined in the Indian Constitution. The legislative process in India is bicameral, involving both the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States).

The history behind Indian legislation

Before the British colonial era, India had a rich history of legal and administrative systems shaped by various indigenous rulers and empires. The legal systems in pre-British India were diverse, reflecting the complexity of the subcontinent’s political and cultural landscape.

Ancient Legal Systems:

  • Vedic Period: During the Vedic period (around 1500 BCE to 600 BCE), legal norms were primarily guided by the Dharma Shastras, which were religious and ethical treatises providing guidelines for righteous living. The Manusmriti is one such ancient legal text that influenced social and legal practices.
  • Maurya Empire: Under the Maurya Empire (322 BCE to 185 BCE), Emperor Ashoka is known for his edicts promoting dharma (moral and righteous conduct). These edicts were inscribed on pillars and rocks, providing guidelines for governance and ethical behavior.
bill becomes a law

Classical Period:

  • Gupta Empire: During the Gupta period (c. 320 CE to 550 CE), Hindu legal traditions were resurgent. The Smritis (legal and ethical texts) continued to play a significant role in shaping societal norms and practices.

Medieval Period:

  • Islamic Rule: With the advent of Islamic rulers, particularly the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire, Islamic legal principles, as enshrined in Sharia, influenced certain aspects of the legal system. The Qazis played a role in administering justice based on Islamic law.
  • Local Systems: Despite the prevalence of Islamic rule, local customary laws and traditional legal practices continued to coexist. Different regions had their own customary laws and practices.

Vijayanagara and Maratha Empires:

  • Vijayanagara Empire: In the south, the Vijayanagara Empire had its legal and administrative systems influenced by Hindu traditions. The Rayas’ Rajashekhara, a legal text, provides insights into legal practices during this period.
  • Maratha Empire: In the west, the Marathas, under rulers like Chhatrapati Shivaji, established their legal and administrative systems, drawing on both Hindu and Islamic legal principles.

Local Self-Governance:

  • Village Panchayats and local councils were instrumental in resolving disputes and administering justice at the grassroots level. These institutions operated based on local customs and traditions.

After the British era The ‘Vakil’, or Advocates, who were part of the Mughal judicial system also changed with time, largely maintaining their previous function of representing their clients. As only members of English, Irish, and Scottish professional organizations were granted the right to audience, Indian practitioners were unable to enter the newly established Supreme Courts.

How does a bill becomes a law in India? 

  1. Introduction of the Bill:
    • A bill can be introduced in either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. If it is a money bill (dealing exclusively with matters related to taxation or public expenditure), it must be introduced in the Lok Sabha.
  2. First Reading:
    • The bill goes through the first reading, during which its title is read out, and copies are distributed to members. There is no debate at this stage.
  3. Second Reading:
    • This stage involves a detailed examination of the bill. Members debate the general principles and provisions of the bill. Voting does not take place at this stage.
  4. Committee Stage:
    • The bill is sent to a parliamentary committee (standing committee or a select committee) for a detailed examination. The committee may suggest amendments.
  5. Report Stage:
    • The bill, along with the committee’s recommendations, is presented to the house. Members can discuss and propose further amendments.
  6. Third Reading:
    • The final version of the bill, incorporating amendments, is debated. Members can discuss the bill as a whole but cannot propose further amendments at this stage.
  7. Consideration in the Other House:
    • If the bill originated in the Lok Sabha, it is then sent to the Rajya Sabha, and vice versa. The process is repeated in the second house.
  8. President’s Approval:
    • After passing both houses, the bill is sent to the President of India for approval. The President can either give assent, withhold assent, or return the bill (if it is not a money bill) for reconsideration.
  9. Becomes Law:
    • If the President gives assent, the bill becomes law. The date on which the President gives assent is considered the date of enactment.


Important point

1. A bill that is pending for more than six months in another house is considered to be rejected. It does not mean that a bill has lapsed.
2. The bill, which runs out due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, gets lapses and no joint sitting is required in this case.
3. The challenged provisions are either fully approved in the joint sitting or rejected in entirety.
4. If the president returns the bill, the entire process will be reopened, and it will take the same procedure as before.
5. The president withholds the consent, that would indicate the end of the bill.


How a bill becomes a law?

Parliament’s primary function is to pass new legislation, change current laws, and remove old laws. A bill gets passed in both houses of parliament for any such process. If passed by both houses, a bill requires the president’s approval to become an Act.

If a bill is proposed in the house by a minister, then it is known as a government or public bill. Government bill requires a 7-day notification for its introduction. The government could collapse upon failure, based on the type of government bill as well as the majority needed to get such a bill passed.

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