The need for a second chamber


This article was written by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and published in ‘The Hindu’ dated 12th May 2020. It is centred around the origin of Rajya Sabha in India preceded by lots of debates and discussions in the Constituent Assembly whether it is relevant to keep or not.

It’s been 68 years of inception of Rajya Sabha in India which came into being on 3rd April 1952 followed by its first session held on 13th May 1952. There were a detailed debate and discussions held regarding the need to have Rajya Sabha, the name given to the second chamber of the Parliament after independence. It underwent several prenatal scrutiny proposals for a bicameral central legislature for the country was discussed in detail by its proponents and opponents.

In India, the concept of Bicameral legislature was introduced by Government of India Act, 1919 with Council of States comprising 60 members and a Legislative Assembly comprising 145 members. However, the membership and voting rights were restricted for the Council of States. Only wealthy landowners, merchants and people with legislative experience were allowed to enter. Women were not given membership and voting rights.

Government of India Act, 1935 came up with some improvisation but it never came into being. Constituent Assembly after its formation in 1947 worked on Constitution-making and after the adoption of Constitution, it worked as a provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Concept of Bicameralism and Federalism

Bicameralism is when there are two houses in the Parliament. It is a principle that refers to the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliaments of making or changing laws. Bicameralism is not a new concept, it was adopted by the US Constitution in 1787 for the very first time. Presently, 79 Parliaments in the world are having a bicameral legislature.

Federalism in the modern context is a division of power between the central and state authorities. Both the concepts are linked together because the federal character of a nation comprising Constituent units which reflects in and secured by a bicameral legislature, i.e. the centre-state relations.

Debates of Constituent Assembly over Bicameral Legislature

Debates of Opponents

  • Mohd. Tahir, a member of Constituent Assembly, asserted that an upper house was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism. As. It was introduced by the British government where members belonged to the upper class of the society.
  • Professor Shibban Lal Saksena said that it will prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation. As this house can struck the normal procedure of lawmaking in the favour of the nation. He said that quick law-making is the need of the hour.
  • Loknath Mishra opposed the parity of powers in law-making for the upper house.

Views of Proponents

  • Nizamuddin Ahmed felt that it would introduce the element of sobriety (restraint) and second thought on the matters of law-making.
  • M Ananathsayanam Ayyangar argued that this chamber would enable the genius of the people to have a second check on hasty legislation.
  • N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar made a strong case for the second chamber and argued on its importance in dignified debates over important issues and take part in legislation.
  • Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the first Chairman of Rajya Sabha said that Parliament is not only a law making body but also a deliberative one which allows members to debate over important issues of public importance.

Importance of Rajya Sabha

  • Lok Sabha is susceptible to passions of the moment and electoral considerations. The legislation needs to be checked by the second chamber whose members are sober, wise and well-informed with domain knowledge.
  • It is a deliberative body which holds high-quality debates on important issues.
  • Rajya Sabha has some special powers as required to adopt a resolution allowing Parliament to legislate on subjects in State List (Schedule VII), creating All India Service (Art. 312), besides approving proclamations of Emergency and Presidents’ Rule when Lok Sabha is dissolved.

Constitutional Provisons of Rajya Sabha

  • In India, regions or parts having a larger population would have more representatives in the second chamber than regions having less population
  • The number of members to be elected from each State has been fixed by the fourth schedule of the Constitution
  • Members of the Rajya Sabha are elected for a term of six years
  • They can get re-elected. All members of the Rajya Sabha do not complete their terms at the same time.
  • Every two years, one-third members of the Rajya Sabha complete their term and elections are held for those one-third seats only.
  • Thus, the Rajya Sabha is never fully dissolved and called the permanent house of the Parliament The advantage of this arrangement is that even when the Lok Sabha is dissolved and elections are yet to take place, the meeting of the Rajya Sabha can be called and urgent business can be conducted The maximum strength of the house has been fixed to 245 (233+12) by the Vajpayee Government in 2001 for next 25 years ie. Up to 2025.
  • Apart from the elected members, Rajya Sabha also has twelve nominated members. The President nominates these members. These nominations are made from among those persons who have made their mark in the fields of literature, science, art and social service.

Rajya Sabha’s Position on Various Bills

  • Any ordinary bill can be introduced either in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha
  • It can be amended or rejected by the Rajya Sabha
  • It can be detained by the Rajya Sabha for a maximum period of six months.
  • It does not require the certification of the Speaker when transmitted to the Rajya Sabha
  • It is sent for the President’s assent only after being approved by both the Houses. In case of a deadlock due to disagreement between the two Houses, a joint sitting of both the houses can be summoned by the president to resolve the deadlock
  • Money Bill and Finance Bill can only be introduced in Lok Sabha, however, Rajya Sabha can take money bill for 14 days, but after the duration, it seems to be passed.

Position of Rajya Sabha

  • When it treated as equal to Lok Sabha
  • Introduction and passage of ordinary bills.
  • Introduction and passage of Constitutional amendment bills.
  • Introduction and passage of financial bills involving expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Election and impeachment of the president.
  • Election and removal of the Vice-President. However, Rajya Sabha alone can initiate the removal of the vice-president. He is removed by a resolution passed by the Rajya Sabha by a special majority and agreed to by the Lok Sabha by a simple majority.
  • Making recommendation to the President for the removal of Chief Justice and judges of Supreme Court and high courts, chief election commissioner and comptroller and auditor general.
  • Approval of ordinances issued by the President.
  • Approval of proclamation of all three types of emergencies by the President.
  • Selection of ministers including the Prime Minister. Under the Constitution, the ministers including the Prime Minister can be members of either House. However, irrespective of their membership, they are responsible only to the Lok Sabha.
  • Consideration of the reports of the constitutional bodies like Finance Commission, Union Public Service Commission, comptroller and auditor general, etc.
  • Enlargement of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Union Public Service Commission.

II. Special Powers of Rajya Sabha

  • It can authorise the Parliament to make a law on a subject enumerated in the State List (Article 249)
  • It can authorise the Parliament to create new All-India Services common to both the Centre and states (Article 312)
  • It maintains the federal equilibrium by protecting the interests of the states against the undue interference of the Centre
  • It facilitates giving representation to eminent professionals and experts who cannot face the direct election. The President nominates 12 such persons to the Rajya Sabha
  • It checks hasty, defective, careless and ill-considered legislation made by the Lok Sabha by making provision of revision and thought

Hence, this article is important for prelims as well as mains about its powers, mechanism, functions, privileges, etc.