Rajya Sabha is the upper house of the Indian Parliament. It is a perpetual body and represents members elected from different states. There was a belief that Rajya Sabha (RS)would play a supporting role to Lok Sabha but it has emerged as a difference-maker in the past couple of years.
Factors responsible for making RS the most useful supporting organ
- Coalition Governments require a wider consensus and where no single party has a majority.
- The rise of regional parties, in Bengal, Kerala, Tamilnadu, etc. such diversity enriches the deliberative potential of the Rajya Sabha While strengthening the Federal aspect of the constitution.
- Promotion of spirit of cooperative federalism in recent years
- Many Ministers including the PM have been part of the RS. They impart RS enhanced weightage.
- The requirement of informed opinion on the issues such as climate change, surrogacy law, DNA bill
Factors for transformation of Rajya Sabha
- Increase in specialists
In recent times Rajya Sabha has a healthy population of experts who have lent their expertise in legislative process. This has given better insights into new bills taken up in the house.
Ex: Kapil Sibal (Law), Jairam Ramesh (Environment).
- Majority for opposition
The RS did not have a ruling party majority for most part of the previous 6 years. This had allowed the opposition to unite and demand for detailed discussion before accepting new bills.
Transformation visible in Rajya Sabha
- Increase in productivity
Rajya Sabha has taken more bills for discussion instead of Lok Sabha. The attendance rate in RS has been higher than Lok Sabha. Bending bills have reduced substantially.
- Setting up standing committees
More standing committees were set up to study and modify bills instead of accepting without any consultation. This was the same reason RS was set up for.
- Focus on rationality rather than politics
This transformation has been more visible as RS has put more efforts to arrive at conclusion through rational discussion rather than following political opportunism.
Ex: Rajya Sabha indulging in debate on farm laws rather than boycotting sessions.
The determinants besides areas making the transformation of Rajya Sabha noticeable are as follows:
- Though the money bill or finance bill can’t be presented in Rajya Sabha since Lok Sabha can only approve the demands for grants, RS under its federal functions enjoys certain special powers such as passing a resolution allowing Parliament to legislate regarding any matter enumerated in the State List, creating All India Services common to the Union and the States and approving proclamations of Emergency and President’s Rule when Lok Sabha is dissolved.
- There is an ever-widening demand to legislate in newer areas. Rajya Sabha facilitates this notion, as a bill can be introduced in either House of Parliament, which can be a government bill or a private member’s bill.
- In both cases, the procedure to pass it is the same and involves three stages in each House of Parliament and received Presidential assent before it becomes an Act of Parliament. Rajya Sabha cleared bills like the Right to Education, 2009 and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage), 2019.
- The Constitution (Seventy-sixth Amendment) Bill 1992, the Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Bill, 1994, the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Bill, 1999, the Constitution (One Hundred and Ninth Amendment) Bill, 2009 are some of the important Constitution Amendment Bills introduced in Rajya Sabha.
- Its deliberative function entails providing more opportunities for scrutiny, building an enabling environment for securing greater executive accountability, and holding debates on matters of diverse public issues.
The areas where this change is visible
- It has played a role in ensuring government accountability etc. by Question hour mechanism and various motions
- Literally acted as the chamber of dignified debate
- Role of RS in enacting legislation of importance like the RTI act, Bonded labour act or Gram Nyayalaya act 2008 and also in opposing discriminatory legislation such as POTA act 2003.
- Making the government accountable by the passing of amendments to the President’s address.
- The support of the Rajya Sabha in passing critical bills like the GST was crucial
It acted as revising chamber leading to joint sittings many times like dowry prevention bill Further, we need to strengthen the Rajya Sabha mandate by mandatory sitting like for at least 100 days, tech input for members, checking misuse of Money bills etc. Rajya Sabha is deemed a safeguard against the possible absolutism of a unicameral legislature.
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