Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Voice vote as constitutional subterfuge

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bicameralism

Mains level : Paper 2- Importance of bicameralism

The article discusses the issue of undermining of the upper house by passing the certain bills through voice vote and use of money bill route.

Passing of the Bill by voice vote

  • The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill was passed by the State’s Legislative Council by voice vote without any division.
  • The law was passed by the Council despite the lack of a majority.
  • There was no division vote based on actual voting as is usual and as the Opposition members had demanded.

A new legislative precedent

  • Similar process was followed to pass the controversial farm laws (by the Rajya Sabha) in September 2020.
  • The pandemonium in the House caused by heated interventions by the Opposition was used as a pretext to resort to a voice vote.
  • The laws passed with a voice vote seem like a new template for bypassing the constitutionally envisaged legislative process.
  • Another process repeatedly used over the last few years to bypass the Upper House of Parliament is the Money Bill route.
  • The Aadhaar Bill was passed in this manner.
  • Other controversial laws such as those pertaining to electoral bonds, retrospective validation of foreign political contributions and the overhaul of the legal regime relating to tribunals have also been carried out through the Money Bill route.

The Rajya Sabha’s role

  • The Lok Sabha is seen as directly representing the will of the people, and the Rajya Sabha as standing in its way.
  • The countervailing function of the Upper House is rarely seen as legitimate.
  • The Rajya Sabha has historically stopped the ruling party from carrying out even more significant legal changes.
  • The Rajya Sabha is imperfect, partly because of constitutional design.
  • And partly because obviously undesirable practices, such as members representing States they have no affiliation to, have been allowed to flourish.

Importance of bicameralism

  • The very questioning of the monopoly of the Lower House to represent the ‘people’ makes bicameralism desirable, argues legal philosopher Jeremy Waldron.
  • In India, the fact that the Rajya Sabha membership is determined by elections to State Assemblies leads to a different principle of representation, often allowing different factors to prevail than those in the Lok Sabha elections.
  • John Stuart Mill had warned about a single assembly becoming despotic and overweening, if released from the necessity of considering whether its acts will be concurred in by another constituted authority.
  • The other merit of bicameralism is significant in a Westminster system like India, where the Lower House is dominated by the executive.
  • The Rajya Sabha holds the potential of a somewhat different legislative relation to the executive, making a robust separation of powers possible.

Consider the question “Examine the importance of bicameralism in India. Why passage of certain bills as money bill is causing controversies?”

Conclusion

The important role played by the upper house needs to be recognised and respected in the legislative processess.

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