From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Articles related to Rajya Sabha.
Mains level : Paper 2- Importance of Rajya Sabha.
This article is about Rajya Sabha, the second chamber of our union legislature. Its utility was intensely debated in the Constituent Assembly. Now, after almost seven decades of its existence, we know that the house has proved its utility. So, what was the reasoning of those who were in support of its creation and what those who opposed its creation had on their mind? How bicameralism is connected to federalism? You’ll come to know the answers to these questions after reading the article.
- The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year.
- The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral.
- Under 1919 Act, Council of States had 60 members and Legislative Assembly had 145 members.
- The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were restrictive.
- These restrictions meant only wealthy landowners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it.
- Women could neither vote nor seek membership.
- The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
- The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.
Bicameralism and the utility of second house
- Bicameralism is a principle that requires the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliament for making or changing laws.
- This principle came into operation in 1787 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
- At present, 79 Parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.
- In The Federalist, the famous essay, it was stated that the second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion besides checking the propensity to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.
- French philosopher Montesquieu who said, “The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
- Walter Bagehot later noted that the retarding chamber will impede minor instances of parliamentary tyranny, though it will not prevent or really impede revolution.
Federalism and link with bicameralism
- Federalism has been in vogue since ancient times when some states got together to confer the power of law-making on a central authority.
- But modern federalism is entirely different given the complexity of geographical, regional, social and economic diversities marking the constituent units of a federation or a union.
- It is more so in India. The U.S. is a federation and so is India — each unit has a set of unique features.
- Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature.
Debate in the Constituent Assembly over need for the second house
- The proposal for the Rajya Sabha as a second chamber was subjected to serious argumentation and had a narrow escape.
- Opponents’ stand: A member of the Constituent Assembly asserted that an Upper House was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism.
- Other member warned that such a chamber would only prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation.
- The proponents’ stand: A supporter of idea felt that it would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought besides lending voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.
- Ananthasayanam Ayyangar argued that a second chamber would enable the genius of the people to have full play besides checking hasty legislation.
- Replying to the debate on the motion N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar had to make a strong case for the second chamber.
- He argued that the most that we expect the Second Chamber to do is 1) to hold dignified debates on important issues 2) to delay legislation which might be the outcome of passions of the moment until the passions have subsided.
Consider the question, “Examine the role played by the Rajya Sabha as a law-making body. Do you agree that the Rajya Sabha has been successful in fulfilling the role expected of it by the makers of our Constitution?”
The mandate of the Rajya Sabha, as can be gleaned from the Constituent Assembly debates and the experiences of other Parliaments, is legislation — to revise or delay legislation without proving a clog in the wheel of the progress; to represent the interests of the States as a federal chamber, and be a deliberative body holding high-quality debates on important issues.