From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Article 89
Mains level : Paper 2- Role of Rajya Sabha
This article seeks to re-articulate a question pertaining to the composition of the Council of States.
Historical background and CAD over the issue of second chamber
- Lokanath Misra led the charge against a federal second chamber in the Constituent Assembly stating that there was not need for the second chamber and also that it will not serve any useful purpose.
- Shibban Lal Saksena, was equally emphatic: He said that as per their experience, the Upper House acts as a clog in the wheel of progress.
- They were not the only ones who had concerns. Other members expressed them too in different contexts during the Constituent Assembly debate on draft Article 67.
Issues with the role of Rajya Sabha
- Unable to protect the interest of the States: Article 1(1) of the Indian Constitution states “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
- Therefore, the primary responsibility of a Council of States would be to protect the interests of the states vis a vis the Union.
- There is hardly any empirical evidence that substantiates that the Rajya Sabha has measured upto the task ever since it came into existence on April 3r 1952.
- No focus on states: From 1952 to 2003, at least there was a veneer of a state focus when it was mandatory that any citizen desirous of contesting a Rajya Sabha election had to be an elector from that particular state.
- By amending Section 3(1) of the Representation of People’s Act 1952 and doing away with the domicile requirement, the Government removed this fig leaf also in 2003.
- A five-judge bench did not uphold tha challenge to this judgement.
- This amendment and the subsequent judgment buried the earlier practice of individuals entering the Rajya Sabha from anywhere based upon rather dodgy but still some form of domicile credentials.
- All states do not have bicameral legislature: Twenty-four states have unicameral legislatures, that is, only one legislative body, and only six states are bicameral.
- If the bulk of the states can make do with one House why not the Centre?
- Rajya Sabha as continuous house argument: It is also argued that the Rajya Sabha is a continuous House as opposed to the Lok Sabha that gets mandatorily dissolved every five years if not sooner.
- That can be fixed with a simple amendment to Article 83 (2) that should state that “Lok Sabha would remain in existence till the time its successor body/house is not constituted.
- Article 83 (1) would stand deleted and consequential amendments can be carried out to other parts of the Constitution.
It would be instructive to keep in mind that the Basic Structure doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court in Re: Kesvananda Bharti holds parliamentary democracy to be basic structure, not bicameralism.