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Special Powers of Rajya Sabha in Indian Constitution

Introduction

In order to better reflect and represent India’s diversity, as well as to handle the various difficulties confronting a resurgent country, India chose to implement a parliamentary form of administration. In the previous several decades, India has achieved significant progress in a number of sectors, both domestically and internationally, thanks to the parliamentary system.

Under India’s constitution, the country’s parliament is made up of three parts: the President, a Council of States, and a House of the People (Lok Sabha). With the exception of the money bill, where the Lok Sabha has overriding powers, both Houses serve to represent the country in essence, and both possess comparable powers and positions under the constitution. Like Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, which is a federal chamber, has been granted several unique powers not accessible to the Lok Sabha.[1]

People’s will is expressed through parliament, which passes laws and holds government officials accountable. An essential part of a democratic society, it strives to be fully representative and transparent in its numerous tasks. In order to reflect the people’s desires and goals, parliament has to be really responsive to them. This is because parliament is the ultimate representational institution. Legislators in the House of Representatives have an important role to play in balancing the competing interests and expectations of diverse groups using democratic procedures such as open discussion, accommodation, and agreement.[2]

In India’s Parliamentary democracy, the legislature serves a variety of roles. It’s parliament’s job to keep up with the fast-paced changes in society and establish a solid and appropriate legal foundation for excellent public governance. Oversight of government is the primary responsibility of this body, which is charged with ensuring that the executive branch stays accountable to the public.

Background

This body, known as the ‘Council of States’ or Rajya Sabha, was established on the 23rd of August, 1954, by the chair of the house, and it has its own particular qualities. The Montague-Chelmsford Report from 1918 is when the second chamber got its start. The Government of India Act of 1919 called for the establishment of a ‘Council of State’ as a second chamber of the then legislature with a limited franchise, which was established in 1921. The Governor-General presided ex-officio over the then-existing Council of State. The Government of India Act 1935 barely altered the makeup of the government at the time of its passage.[3]

It was only in 1950 that the Constituent Assembly was renamed the ‘Provisional Parliament,’ after its inaugural session took place on December 9, 1946. This time saw the Central Legislature known as the Constituent Assembly (Legislative) and afterward the Provisional Parliament as a unicameral body until the first elections were conducted in 1952.

There was a great deal of discussion in the Constituent Assembly over whether or not a second chamber was necessary for independent India, and it was concluded that a federal system of government was the best option for such a large nation with so many different cultures. In fact, it was thought that a single directly elected House would be insufficient to handle the problems that free India would face. It was consequently necessary to construct a second chamber, the ‘Council of States,’ which had a completely different makeup and manner of selection from the directly elected House of the People. It was planned as a second chamber, smaller than the Lok Sabha, with a lesser number of members (House of the People). It was intended to be the federal chamber, consisting of a House chosen by elected members of state assemblies and two Union territories where states were not granted equal participation. Additionally, twelve members of the House of Representatives may be nominated by the President. The Lower House has a minimum age of twenty-five years, whilst the Upper House has a minimum age of thirty years. By designating the Vice President of India ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, the Council of State House was given a sense of respect and importance.[4]

Strength

Specifically, Article 80 of the Constitution states that the Rajya Sabha has a maximum strength of 250 members, with 12 of those members being nominated by the President and 238 of those members representing the states and the two Union Territories. With 233 members representing the states and union territories of Delhi and Puducherry, and 12 others appointed by the President, Rajya Sabha currently has a total membership of 245. Those nominated by the President are experts in a wide range of fields such as literature, science, art, and social service.[5]

Qualifications of Rajya Sabha Member

Article 84 of the Constitution specifies the requirements for Parliamentary membership. A Rajya Sabha member must fulfill the following requirements:

1. You must be a resident of India and 30 years old or older.

2. The Legislative Assembly of States and UTs must elect its members by proportional representation using the single transferable vote system.

3. You must not be a convicted felon, a subject of an insolvent, or of unsound mind.

4. Is not employed in any other profit-making position by the Government of India.

5. In addition, they must meet any additional requirements that may be imposed in that regard by or under any legislation passed by parliament.

The President of India also nominates twelve individuals with exceptional understanding in other fields such as the arts and sciences who will serve on the committee. According to Article 55 of the Constitution, however, they are not eligible to vote in presidential elections.

Election procedure

Electoral College:

There are no direct elections in the Rajya Sabha for MPs from States and the Union Territories. Representatives for each State and Union territory are chosen by the elected members of the State’s Legislative Assembly and the members of the Union Territory’s Electoral College, respectively, using a proportional representation system based on the single transferable vote. As for Puducherry, the electors are drawn from that territory’s Legislative Assembly, while those for Delhi’s National Capital Territory are drawn from Delhi’s Legislative Assembly.

Biennial/Bye-election:

The Rajya Sabha is an inviolable body that can never be dissolved. However, every two years, one-third of the Rajya Sabha’s members leave office. A member elected to a full term is in office for six years. When a position becomes vacant due to a member’s resignation or death, the concept “Bye-election” is used to describe the process of filling such a gap. Under the Tenth Schedule, a member chosen in a bye-election serves out the balance of the term of a member who resigned, died, or was otherwise ineligible to serve in the house.

Special Powers of Rajya Sabha

The Rajya Sabha is a symbol of federalism in Indian politics. Members of the Rajya Sabha represent a specific State or Union Territory rather than a constituency like those in the Lok Sabha[6]. As the federal house of India’s Parliament, it has the following specific powers granted by the constitution:

1. Under Article 249 of the Constitution, a resolution may be passed by the Rajya Sabha, with a majority of not less than two-thirds of the Members present and voting, to the effect that it is essential or expedient in the national interest that Parliament should adopt legislation with regard to any issue mentioned in the State List. Following the passing of a resolution, parliament has the authority to pass legislation governing any area of India’s territory. A resolution of this kind is valid for a year at the most, although it may be renewed for an additional year by passing another resolution.

2. The constitution says that if the Rajya Sabha votes by a majority of more than two-thirds to say that it’s in the national interest to have one or more All India Services that are shared by both the Union and the states, parliament can make them happen by law.

3. Under the constitution, the President can make Proclamations if there is a national emergency (Article 352) if a State’s constitutional machinery doesn’t work (Article 356), or if there is a financial emergency (Article 358). (Article 360). Every such Proclamation must be authorized by both Houses of Parliament within a certain time frame. In this respect, Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, has a unique set of powers. If a Proclamation is issued within the period allotted for its approval, and the Lok Sabha is dissolved during that period, the Proclamation remains valid if a resolution approving it is approved by the Rajya Sabha.

Limitation in power

The Rajya Sabha is constrained by the constitution, but the Lok Sabha has more authority when it comes to:

Money bill

1. Only a minister may propose a money bill in the Lok Sabha, and only if the President of India recommends it.

2. For 14 days after the Lok Sabha has passed a money bill, the Rajya Sabha has the opportunity to offer suggestions.

3. A bill is considered enacted if Rajya Sabha fails to return it to the Lok Sabha within 14 days of its introduction in that house.

As a result, if the Lok Sabha rejects any (or all) of the modifications recommended by the Rajya Sabha, the bill is assumed to have been enacted. A money bill cannot be amended by the Rajya Sabha; instead, it can only be recommended by Rajya Sabha.

When it comes to money bills, there is no combined sitting of the two chambers since all final decisions are made by the Lok Sabha.

Joint Sitting of the Parliament

Certain circumstances are covered under Article 108, which calls for both Houses of Parliament to meet in session at the same time.

In a combined session of parliament, the Lok Sabha tends to exert more influence than the Rajya Sabha because of its numerical superiority. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha chairs a combined session.

No confidence motion

The Lok Sabha, not the Rajya Sabha, holds the Union Council of Ministers jointly accountable. In order to bring down the Council of Ministers, the Lok Sabha must approve a vote of no confidence.

Conclusion

According to President Radhakrishnan, a revising chamber like the Rajya Sabha can do a good job. In addition to making laws, a parliament is also a group that talks about things. At least when it comes to making decisions, Rajya Sabha has made a lot of good things happen. It’s true that the way Rajya Sabha works is affected by party politics. But in a democracy, passion can often get the better of the normal sense. Because so much adrenaline is going through your body, you need to have a revising house.

While the argument that members can’t win indirect elections is true, it’s important for any democratic system to keep good people around. Rajya Sabha has essentially repaired the loss of valuable talent amid election fervor. Experts like scientists, artists, and even professional athletes may now enter the political arena without fear of retribution. While each state has a representative in the Lok Sabha, the Hindi belt is always at the top. As a result, the Rajya Sabha has always taken up other state concerns, such as those in the North East.

To ensure that the government’s actions are in accordance with democratic norms (as shown by the Land Ordinance), it is essential to have a body like this. State List Act, in addition to its unique position in All India Services, demands its existence. Men and women of extraordinary ability and stature have graced the upper house benches and made major contributions to realizing the goal of the constitution’s founding fathers.

As a safeguard against sudden changes in the composition of the lower house, the existence of a permanent upper house is essential. The Rajya Sabha is a steadfast institution.

It cannot be disbanded by anybody, unlike the Lok Sabha. As a result, the upper house has been able to perform certain administrative duties even when the lower house has been abolished on several occasions. While there may be newcomers in the Lok Sabha, it includes members who have been in the game for a long time. Because of this, the Rajya Sabha cannot be characterized as ‘obstructive’ by any means.

[1]Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Structure and Functions of Rajya Sabha Secretariat, (2009), at pages 2-3

[2]Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Second Chamber In Indian Parliament: Role and Status of Rajya Sabha, (2009), at page 6.

[3]https://agricoop.nic.in/en/rajya-sabha

[4]Rajyasabha.nic.in. 2022. Rajya Sabha Introduction. [online] Available at:https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/about_parliament/rajya_sabha_introduction.asp

[5]n.d. [ebook] Available at:https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/rsat_work/CHAPTER%E2%80%942.pdf

[6]JUSTICE K S PUTTASWAMY RETD AND ANOTHER VERSUS UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS LNIND 2018 SC 535p. 358

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Ashutosh

2nd Year BBA. LLB student at Bennett University