The council of states, also known as the Rajya Sabha, is the upper house of the Indian parliament. This nomenclature was announced on 23rd August 1954. Rajya Sabha has played a constructive part in our polity.  Its performance in the lawmaking field and in controlling the Government policies has been momentous.  Rajya Sabha has always worked in a cooperative spirit with Lok Sabha as per the Constitutional directive.  It has prevented hasty legislation and has served as dignified chamber denoting the central principle.

The membership of the house is limited to a highest of 250 members (presently 245). The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected through voting for a 5 years term but 12 out of the total members are the nominated members that are appointed by the President based on their excellent contribution in their field (art, science, literature, social services etc) for 6 years. Rajya Sabha is a permanent body, unlike Lok Sabha.

Who qualifies to be a Rajya Sabha member?

As per article 84 of the Indian constitution, a Rajya Sabha member must:

  • be a citizen of India.
  • be at least 30 years old
  • be elected through voting.
  • not have a criminal record.
  • not be an insolvent (capable to meet one’s financial expenses)
  • be of a sound mind.
  • have the required qualification.
  • not hold any other office of profit under Indian government.

The nominated members are required to have an exceptional knowledge in the areas of their work. Nevertheless, a member nominated is allowed to join a party is one wants but within the first 6 months of getting a seat in the house.

Composition/Strength

Out of the maximum strength stated (250), 12 members are nominated by the President and 238 are representatives of the States and of the two Union Territories.  Currently, the strength of Rajya Sabha is 245, out of which 233 are representatives of the States and Union territories of Delhi and Puducherry and 12 are the nominated membersRajya Sabha

Allocation of Seats

The allocation of seats in Rajya Sabha is made on the basis of the population of each State.  Following the reorganization of States and formation of new States, the number of elected seats in the upper house allotted to States and Union Territories has changed from time to time since 1952.

The Election process

Electoral College: There happens an indirect election for the selection of the representatives of the States and of the Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha.  The representatives are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of that State and by the members of the Electoral College for that Union Territory. Anyone who has been 18 years of age at the beginning of the election year can cast a vote.

Bye-election: Rajya Sabha is a permanent House and can’t be dissolved.  However, 1/3rd Members of Rajya Sabha retire after every two years.  An elected member serves for 6 years.  The election held to fill a vacancy arising for a reason other than by retirement of a member on the expiration of his term of office is called ‘Bye-election’. A member elected in a bye-election remains a member for the rest of the term.

Chairman and Deputy Chairman

The Presiding Officers of Rajya Sabha are responsible to conduct the scheduling of the House.  The Vice-President of India is ex-officio Chairman of the upper house.  A Deputy Chairman is also chosen amongst the members.  The Chairman also nominates a Panel of Vice-Chairmen in Rajya Sabha, who, in the absence of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, presides over the proceedings of the House.

Secretary-General

Appointed by the Secretary-General, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha holds a rank comparable to the highest civil servant of the Union.  He/she works with anonymity and is readily available for rendering advice on parliamentary matters.  He/she works under the direction and control of the Rajya Sabha Chairman.

Special Powers of Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha, being a centralized board, enjoys certain exceptional powers under the Constitution.  All the subjects regarding legislation have been divided into three Lists – Union List, State List and Concurrent List. Union and State Lists are mutually exclusive.  However, if Rajya Sabha passes a decision by a majority of at least two-thirds of members present saying that it is required or beneficial in the national, Parliament becomes empowered to make a law on the subject stated in the decision, for the whole or any part of the country.  That decision stays in force for a period of one year but this can be extended by one year at a time by passing a similar decision again.

Under the Constitution, the President is authorized to issue declarations in the event of national emergency.  Every such announcement has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament within a set period.  Rajya Sabha enjoys special powers in this regard.  If a declaration is broadcasted at a time when Lok Sabha has been dissolved or the dissolution happens within the period allowed for its approval, then the declaration remains operative, if the resolution approving it is passed by Rajya Sabha within the period mentioned.

Limitation of Rajya Sabha

The Indian constitution has placed some restrictions on Rajya Sabha which makes it less powerful than Lok Sabha, as in the case of a money bill. A Money Bill can be introduced only in Lok Sabha.  After it is passed by that House, it is transmitted to Rajya Sabha for 14 days for agreement or suggestion.  The power of Rajya Sabha in respect of such a Bill is limited.   Rajya Sabha has to return such a Bill to Lok Sabha within a period of fourteen days from its receipt.  If it is not returned to Lok Sabha within that time, the Bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses at the expiration of the set period in the form in which it was passed by Lok Sabha.  Again, Rajya Sabha cannot amend a Money Bill; it can only recommend amendments and Lok Sabha to ensure that Rajya Sabha shouldn’t add any non-money matters in money bill. Lok Sabha can reject all the recommendations of Rajya Sabha or can accept all recommendations or can accept only a few recommendations of Rajya Sabha for a money bill. The decision of speaker of Lok Sabha is final. There is no dispute. There is no joint sitting of both houses because all final decisions are taken by Lok Sabha only in case of the money bill.

 

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