BILL AND ACT: UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE

By Kartik Sharma

PC: Labour Law Guide, YouTube.

INTRODUCTION

Any statute which is/ was in force until now went through two stages. Initially, it is a Bill stage, and then it becomes an Act. For laypeople, a Bill is a stage where proposed legislation is open for discussion and is not enforceable by any authority. In contrast, an Act is a codified and binding law. Any law and order authority or any exclusive authority created thereunder can enforce this Act. 

At the Bill stage, the Parliament discusses, debates and vote upon the clauses of the proposed legislation. If the Parliament deems fit to pass and passes, such legislation, the President may approve it. Once approved and notified in the gazette, this Bill, becomes a fully codified Act or a statute (the second stage). After becoming a fully enforced Act, there cannot be any changes except through due procedure established by the Constitution.[1]

As we can see in the preceding paragraph, a Bill is proposed legislation which goes on to become an Act (an enacted legislation). Hence, there is not much difference between the two. Where one has the force of law, the other does not. That is why this article would deal more on the type of Bills and the procedure to make them an Act.

TYPES OF BILL

As per the Constitution of India, there are mainly four types of Bills. Ordinary Bill,[2] Money Bill,[3] Financial Bill[4] and Constitution amendment Bill.[5]

1. ORDINARY BILL

Any minister can introduce an ordinary bill (Government Bill), or any private member (Member of the Parliament) authorised to do so (Private Member Bill). Either house of the Parliament can introduce this Bill. Once the Parliament Scrutinises the Bill, it requires the majority of the members present and voting in the House.

Once the introductory House has passed the Bill and sent for consideration in the second House, the second House can either give it or can suggest amendments. If the second House goes for the latter thing, the introductory House has to pass the proposed legislation with such suggested changes after proper scrutiny. Finally, the Bill remains for the assent of the President before becoming a Proper Act.

2. MONEY BILL

As per Article 110(1) of the Indian Constitution, “a bill is a money bill if its provisions deal with abolition, imposition, regulation, alteration or remission of any matters of Consolidated Fund, Tax, provides imposition of fines etc.”.[6] Only the lower House of the Parliament (Lok Sabha), on the recommendation of the President, can introduce such bills. The Speaker of that House has the authority to declare any bill as Money Bill or an Ordinary Bill. Once announced, no one could challenge such decision of the Speaker.

The procedure to pass such Bill is same as that of any Ordinary Bill.

3. FINANCIAL BILL

Financial Bills are those bills which deal with matters not listed in Money Bill. Just like Money Bill, only Lok Sabha, on President’s recommendation, can introduce Financial Bill. Article 117(3) talks about another Financial Bill.[7] Either House of the Parliament can introduce Financial Bill under this article without the recommendation of the President.[8] Both the houses have the power to reject or amend the Bill.[9] Other than this, the procedure to pass such bills is similar to that of Ordinary Bill.

4. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BILL

Bills that seek to amend the Constitution of India are Constitution Amendment Bill.[10] Either House of the Parliament can introduce this Bill but not in any State Legislature. President’s recommendation is not required to present these bills. Also, any Member of the Parliament (MP) can present such Bill in the Parliament.

There are three such Bills,

  1. Those who need a simple majority to pass,
  2. The ones which need special majority,
  3. The ones which need special majority and ratification from half the number of State Legislatures.[11]

Once the Parliament passes the Bill, President’s assent makes such Bill a Constitution Amendment Act. This step of the President makes the proposed alteration in the Constitution. To note, the President cannot withhold the Bill, which requires Special Majority and ratification from 50% State Legislatures. He/ She has to give his consent to it.

CONCLUSION

To conclude, the difference between an Act and a Bill is just legal bindingness. One has the force of law where others do not. We can also observe that there is various type of Bills which are introduced in the Parliament. Each has its unique way to become an Act. Where only Lower House can add some, it has to have President’s recommendation whereas others do not require such a suggestion. Some also need an extraordinary majority to move ahead and become a legally binding Act.


[1] The Constitution of India, 1949, Art 368.

[2] Id, Art 107.

[3] Id, Art 110.

[4] Id, Art 117.

[5] Id, Art 368.

[6] Supra note 4.

[7] The Constitution of India, 1949, Art 117(3).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Id, Art 368.

[11] Ibid.