- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Equal representation to all States in Rajya Sabha sought
What to study?
For Prelims: Rajya Sabaha- elections, composition and functions.
For Mains: Need for- issues, challenges and solutions.
Context: On the occasion of its 250th session, Rajya Sabha MPs have made the following suggestions:
- Giving all States, irrespective of their population and size, an equal number of seats in the Rajya Sabha.
- All members, irrespective of their parties’ strength in the House, the same amount of time to speak in debates.
Need for Rajya Sabha:
- The Upper House of the Indian Parliament traces its direct history to the first bicameral legislature introduced in British India in 1919 as a consequence of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms.
- Unlike the US Senate which ensures equal representation for all federal units (each state having two representatives), India’s Rajya Sabha does have more members from populous states.
- Even though Indian states are ‘mere administrative units’ which don’t enjoy a constitutionally-assured permanence, their continued existence over all these years and the constitutional separation of power has given them the nature of autonomous units in their own spheres. Therefore, the ‘state-wise’ identity cannot be ruled out completely.
- India’s Rajya Sabha has equal powers to the Lok Sabha except for money bills, where it has no jurisdiction.
Is the Rajya Sabha essential?
- The contemporary argument against it comes from two primary angles:
- The first one suggests that a Lok Sabha that has representation from several regional parties more than adequately represents a federal country.
- The second argument charges that the Rajya Sabha has become a haven for losers in elections, crony capitalists, compromised journalists and party fundraisers.
What can be done?
It is virtually impossible to abolish the Rajya Sabha without adopting a new Indian Constitution. The bicameral nature of the Indian Parliament is likely to be interpreted as a “basic structure” of the Indian Constitution, rendering it incapable of being amended. Even if this were to be tested, it would be ensnared in a judicial process for a very long time. It is much more practical to try and reform the Rajya Sabha than seeking to abolish it.
- Have members of the Rajya Sabha be directly elected by the citizens of a state. This will reduce cronyism and patronage appointments.
- This step should be combined with equal representation for each state (say, five members) so that large states do not dominate the proceedings in the House.
- This streamlined Rajya Sabha should remain deliberative, but there should be deadlines set for responding to bills initiated in the Lok Sabha.
Sources: the Hindu.
Mains Question: Discuss the constitutional status of Rajya Sabha with respect to Lok Sabha.