Why the Rajya Sabha matters

Source: This post is based on the article “Why the Rajya Sabha matters” published in the Indian Express on 23rd July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Relevance: To understand the functions of Rajya Sabha.

News: Given the political scenario in the country, an appraisal of the functions of the Rajya Sabha becomes necessary.

About the formation of the Rajya Sabha

The genesis of the Rajya Sabha can be traced to the Montague-Chelmsford report of 1918. Consequently, the Government of India Act, 1919 provided for a second federal chamber or the “Council of States”.

The relevance of the Rajya Sabha was debated in the Constituent Assembly. Few members argued that such a House, over and above the Lok Sabha, would unnecessarily delay law-making.

However, many others argued that the “second chamber” would instead introduce an element of solemnity and enhance the quality of debate and discussion.

Must read: What has Rajya Sabha achieved that a stand-alone Lok Sabha has not, or would not?
On what matters Rajya Sabha exercises limited powers?

1) Money bills: The Lok Sabha has the power to introduce Money Bills and also exercises the final say over these bills, 2) A no-confidence motion cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha, 3) Rajya Sabha exercises a limited role in the functioning of the Public Accounts Committee and has no part in the Estimates Committee.

On what matters Rajya Sabha exercises special powers?

a) The Rajya Sabha exercises the ability to create new All-India Services under Article 312 by passing a resolution subject to support and voting by two-thirds of members, b)  The Rajya Sabha exercises power to make laws on any subject included in the State List toward “national importance” under Article 249, c) Rajya Sabha can approve proclamations under Article 352 or 356 or 360 if the Lok Sabha stands dissolved.

Read more:  Rajya Sabha is essential for Indian democracy
What is the significance of Rajya Sabha?

a) Rajya Sabha ensures healthy bicameralism by providing some kind of accountability to the law-making process undertaken in the Lok Sabha, b) The process of indirect elections (elected by the members of the state legislative assemblies) acts as a passage between the states, people, and Parliament. This furthers the principles of decentralisation by lending an independent voice to the states.

c) Rajya Sabha meticulously analyses the merits and demerits of a Bill. It also empowers its members to voice resistance, dissent, or any disagreement, even if the Lok Sabha dominates as the primary stakeholder in the law-making process.

On all bills except Money Bills, there exists a balance of power between the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

d) The provision of the nomination of eminent persons from fields makes Rajya Sabha even more democratic and participatory.

e) Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution. Hence, it is often referred to as the permanent house of Parliament.

Read more: Explained: How are Rajya Sabha MPs elected?
How to empower the functioning of the Rajya Sabha further?

Give more voice to State concerns: Matters related to finance, fiscal federalism, and economic reforms must be brought under the purview of the Rajya Sabha. This will further help articulate states’ concerns and strengthen the premise of cooperative and competitive federalism.

Should not be a resort to non-elected party members: The Rajya Sabha must not be used by political parties to accommodate candidates who fail to win mass elections. Instead, parties should select their candidates with the specific role of the Upper House in mind.

Need to safeguard the rights of states: Rajya Sabha’s rich quality of ideas and debate, and the discussions in the Rajya Sabha mould the thinking of students, political enthusiasts, and the general masses. But there have been veiled encroachments as well as attacks on the rights of states. Rajya Sabha needs to safeguard the rights of states.

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