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Is the Rajya Sabha essential?

  • IASbaba
  • May 12, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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POLITY

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these. 
  • Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.  
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Is the Rajya Sabha essential?

Context:

Below editorial covers the following areas –

  1. Basics or key facts about Rajya Sabha
  2. Whether we need Rajya Sabha? – Arguments in favour and arguments in against
  3. Views of proponents and opponents

Key facts about Rajya Sabha

  • The Rajya Sabha is the Upper House (Second Chamber or House of Elders) and it represents the states and union territories of the Indian Union.
  • It came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year. 
  • Government of India Act of 1919 introduced, for the first time, bicameralism. Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
  • Bicameralism is a specific feature of Federal form of government and was borrowed from the British Constitution.

Do we need Rajya Sabha?

Arguments in favour

  1. The Rajya Sabha is required to maintain the federal equilibrium by protecting the interests of the states against the undue interference of the Centre.
  2. The second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion. 
  3. Both the Houses check one another and hence instances of parliamentary tyranny can be avoided. In other words, it can ensure that the majoritarian thrust of the Lower House does not undermine rule of law and public institutions.
  4. Legislation is checked by members who are expected to be sober, wise and well-informed with domain knowledge.
  5. It represents the interests of the States as a federal chamber. (Promotes Federalism)
  6. It acts as a deliberative body holding high-quality debates on important issues.
  7. It helps to initiate proposals for public policy. 
  8. Rajya Sabha can be the voice of sanity, of the excluded, and of citizen rights.

Arguments against 

  1. In 2006 in Kuldip Nayar v. Union of India and Others, the SC held that – Rajya Sabha has turned out to be another chamber of the Parliament akin to the Lok Sabha, except for the mode of selection of its members.
  2. The deadlock between both Houses on parliamentary matters is a major setback to India’s progress and shows the leadership of all parties in a bad light.
  3. Cronyism and patronage appointments are increasing.
  4. Only some members have the necessary qualifications that will do justice to the role of the Rajya Sabha, others do not measure up.
  5. Many parties are now using the Rajya Sabha as a backdoor to get members elected, most of whom will not be able to win a Lok Sabha election.
  6. People get in from States they are least connected with.
  7. Parliamentary logjams and stalling of legislation can be avoided.

Opponents view

  1. According to Mr. Mohd. Tahir (Constiuent Assembly member) – “Upper House was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism.”
  2. According to Professor Shibban Lal Saksena – “the second chamber acts as an obstruction in the wheel of progress of the nation as it doesn’t enable quick law-making.”

Proponents view

  1. According to Naziruddin Ahmada second chamber would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought besides lending voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.
  2. According to M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangara second chamber would check hasty legislation and it can make place for genius people “who may not be able to win a popular mandate”.
  3. According to N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar – a second chamber will help to “hold dignified debates on important issues and to delay legislations which might be the outcome of passions of the moment until the passions have subsided and calm consideration could be bestowed on the measures which will be before the Legislature.”
  4. According to Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha – Because of Rajya Sabha, Parliament is not just a mere legislative body but also a deliberative one. It enables the members to debate major issues of public importance.
  5. Lokanath Mishra described it as “a sobering House, a reviewing House, a House standing for quality and the members will be exercising their right to be heard on the merits of what they say, for their sobriety and knowledge of special problems.”
  6. Rajya Sabha largely duplicates the functions of the Lok Sabha and is unnecessary. – Abbé Sieyès

Conclusion:

The council of states emerged after it was subjected to serious argumentation and underdoing severe scrutiny in the Constituent Assembly. It should be our responsibility to make it an effective and time-bound contributor to India’s parliamentary system.

It has the role of a watchdog, it must assert itself as a House of correction. Its function is to improve legislation passed by the Lower House and is not one of obstruction.

Connecting the dots:

  • What measures are needed to make the Council of States more effective and a deliberative body?
  • Do you think Rajya Sabha needs reforms? If yes, why and what type of reforms are needed?
  • Rajya Sabha is the repository of diverse intellect that ensures in depth scrutiny and wide ranging debates. Even though, it has limited functional powers, its role in India’s polity can’t be belittled. Critically comment.

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