Rajya Sabha- Has Rajya Sabha outlived its utility?

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Rajya Sabha- Has Rajya Sabha outlived its utility?
05 Aug 2020

India has a bicameral Parliament, which has two houses. The Central Legislature has come into force under the Government of India Act, 1919, with a bicameral structure. Earlier it was named as ‘Council of States’. The need of this house has always been argued, as some people feel the need of it, while some people criticize it.

Basically, this house is the permanent one unlike the Lok Sabha, which dissolves at a particular time.

Recently, due to an impasse on the GST bill by the Rajya Sabha, a Minister argued that, time has come to debate whether an ‘indirectly’ elected house like Rajya Sabha can hold up proposals approved by the ‘directly’ elected Lok Sabha which represents the ‘will of the people’. Thus, in this blog we will learn about arguments against or in the favor Rajya Sabha.

The Institution of Rajya Sabha

The Rajya Sabha is the upper house of the Indian parliament, which has a total limit of 245 members, where 233 people are elected by vote and rest 12 are nominated by the President. These 12 people are those who have done something significant in arts, science, literature and social services etc.

This house is the permanent one, which never dissolves. 2/3 rd of its member retire at every 2nd year. However, this house can be prorogued by the President. This house is considered as a representative of states and also known as Council of States. The Vice-President of India happens to be the ex-officio chairman of Rajya Sabha.

Arguments for the need of Rajya Sabha during Constituent Assembly

The very spirit of Indian Democracy was that every citizen and every section must be given representation in the law making process. This was the biggest argument in the support of establishment of Rajya Sabha.

People argued that this house will give participation to all the federal states too.

It was also argued that it would enable that some people will be able to check the hasty decisions taken by the lower house.

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Arguments against the Rajya Sabha

One of the members of the Constituent Assemble had argued that an upper house is not really needed in India and it will only give rise to imperialism. Many other members warned that the Rajya Sabha shall prove to be hindrance in the overall development of nation.

The major issue was that, such a house will lengthen the legislative process and there will be delay in the law-making process overall.

The institution in modern times

There might be some arguments given which support the relevance Rajya Sabha in modern times-

  • Bicameralism is very much necessary for a federal constitution so that the federal states can be provided some freedom and say in the matters of national importance.
  • As there is a system of checks and balances among all the institutions like judiciary, executive etc., this very checking system is needed in legislature also.
  • Indian Constitution makers wanted to make a house which had to clean up the mess, which the lower house made. Basically, there are some decisions which the lower house takes hastily sometimes; Rajya Sabha helps in such matter.
  • A political party with an absolute majority in Lok Sabha majority could, under the pressure of the Whip system, pass inadequate or ill-considered bill. The purpose of the Rajya Sabha is to give another consideration and prevent passage of such bills.
  • Sometimes, when a party has absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, in such a case, some States do not get adequate representation in the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha is much needed to represent the interests of such states.
  • There are some sections like women, religious, ethnic and linguistic minority groups, which do no find adequate representation in lower house, so these people find their participation in Rajya Sabha.
  • Upper house has some special powers too such as- power to transfer subject from state list to union list, to create additional All India Services and to endorse Emergency under Article 352 for a limited period.

Conclusion

There might be some issues, which pull the upper house backward, but the fact cannot be denied that Rajya Sabha cannot be dissolved as it establishes the very form of federal government. If the upper house is destroyed, there is a possibility that the government can use the legislations as per its whims and caprices. So, this institution had the utility in the past and so does in the future as well. The self- motivated interests of political parties should not be used to decide the utilities of institutions established by the Constitution of India.

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