This article throws light upon the ten major duties of a chairman in a meeting. The duties are: 1. The Meeting is in Order 2. According to Rules 3. Agenda is Followed 4. Within the Scope of the Meeting 5. Discussion on Motions Only 6. Maintenance of Order 7. Opportunity to Speak 8. Accurate Voting 9. Minutes are Kept 10. Other Duties.
First of all, the chairman shall see that the meeting itself is in order and for that the following points have to be taken into consideration:
(a) That a proper notice has been sent to all the persons entitled to receive a notice.
(b) That only those persons who are entitled are present at the meeting (including invitees, if any).
(c) That his own appointment is in order.
(d) That the quorum of members is present.
(e) If there is want of quorum at the beginning and the quorum is not present within half an hour then the chairman is to see that the meeting is adjourned.
It is the duty of the chairman to see that the proceedings are carried on strictly according to the rules.
The chairman shall see that the business at a meeting is conducted in the order as given in the agenda. He may vary the order with the consent of the meeting. When he finds that some important item is placed at the bottom of the agenda which needs discussion on the day and within the presence of the largest number of participants, but much time has passed in taking up a few items at the top, he changes the order.
It is his duty to see that the participants do not raise discussions or suggestion of amendments or otherwise on any matter which is not within the scope of the meeting.
Further, the chairman shall also see that the participants do not discuss anything for which specific motion is not before the house.
A major duty of the chairman is to see that perfect order and tranquility prevail at the meeting). Unless there is perfect order, the business of the meeting cannot be conducted smoothly and timely. The participants may cause disorder by making adverse remarks on one another, by personal talks while discussion is going on, by disobeying the orders or rulings of the chairman, by violating the rules of the meeting, etc. The chairman has powers (see below) to take steps to maintain order, discipline and decorum at the meeting.
The chairman shall see that every participant gets reasonable opportunity to speak. Generally, he does not allow one individual to speak more than once on the same topic unless he is compelled to explain something what he has already said. The chairman must see that persons belonging to the minority group, if any, and whatever small number they may have, are given opportunities to place their views.
Another major duty of the chairman is to see that the sense of the house is properly ascertained. It means that voting is conducted perfectly and the results are declared accordingly. In case a special resolution is necessary, he shall see that the difference of votes is correct. He has to ask the secretary to arrange poll when it is demanded. In counting votes the chairman takes the help of the secretary as well as of the ‘tellers” appointed by him.
It is the duty of the chairman to confirm the minutes, by putting his signature, prepared by the secretary after the meeting is over. Similarly, the chairman shall see that the secretary takes necessary notes at a meeting so that minutes can be subsequently prepared. The chairman himself puts down notes on the detailed agenda sheet for the purpose.
The chairman has some other formal duties.
(a) If he is elected a pro tem chairman, his duty is to vacate when, the fixed chairman arrives.
(b) He shall not be partial in his behaviour and shall exercise his casting vote, if any, very selectively.
(c) He shall lend patient hearing to every-body, whether the views expressed are liked or disliked by him.
(d) He has to see that the business of the meeting be completed within the shortest possible time.
(e) He shall comply with the requests of the participants for adjourning the meeting.
(f) He has to give satisfactory replies to the questions raised by members on his speech, if any.
(g) He shall exercise his powers reasonably.
Non-compliance with Duties:
If a chairman does not comply with his duties then the participants as a whole or in part may stage a walk-out as a mark of protest. This we often find in an Assembly or in Parliament. If he is a temporary chairman, elected at the meeting, he may be removed by the participants.