The Rajya Sabha (Hindi: राज्य सभा) or Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament of India. Rajya means state and Sabha means “assembly” in Sanskrit. Membership is limited to 250 members, 12 of whom are chosen by the President of India for their expertise in specific fields of art, literature, science, and social services. These members are known as nominated members. The remainder of the body is elected by the state and territorial legislatures. Terms of office are six years, with one third of the members retiring every two years.
The Rajya Sabha meets in continuous sessions and, unlike the Lok Sabha, is not subject to dissolution. The Rajya Sabha has equal footing in all areas of legislation with Lok Sabha, except in the area of supply, where the Lok Sabha has overriding powers. In the case of conflicting legislation, a joint sitting of the two houses is held.
However, since the Lok Sabha has twice as many members as the Rajya Sabha, it would normally hold the greater power in such joint sessions. Only three joint sessions have been held; the last one was for the passage of the anti-terror law POTA in 2002.
The Vice-President of India (currently, Hamid Ansari) is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who is elected from amongst its members, takes care of the day-to-day matters of the house in the absence of the Chairman.
The Rajya Sabha held its first sitting on 13 May 1952.
Name of State-No. of Seats
- Uttar Pradesh-31
- Andhra Pradesh-18
- Tamil Nadu-18
- West Bengal-16
- Madhya Pradesh-11
- Jammu & Kashmir-4
- Himachal Pradesh-3
- National Capital Territory (Delhi)-3
- Arunachal Pradesh-1
Special Powers of Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha being a federal chamber enjoys certain special powers under the Constitution. All the subjects/areas regarding legislation have been divided into three Lists – Union List, State List and concurrent List. Union and State Lists are mutually exclusive – one cannot legislate on a matter placed in the sphere of the other. However, if Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by a majority of not less than two-thirds of members present and voting saying that it is “necessary or expedient in the national interest” that Parliament should make a law on a matter enumerated in the State List, Parliament becomes empowered to make a law on the subject specified in the resolution, for the whole or any part of the territory of India. Such a resolution remains in force for a maximum period of one year but this period can be extended by one year at a time by passing a similar resolution further.
If Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting declaring that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest to create one or more All India Services common to the Union and the States, Parliament becomes empowered to create by law such services.
Under the Constitution, the President is empowered to issue Proclamations in the event of national emergency, in the event of failure of constitutional machinery in a State, or in the case of financial emergency. Every such proclamation has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament within a stipulated period. Under certain circumstances, however, Rajya Sabha enjoys special powers in this regard. If a Proclamation is issued at a time when Lok Sabha has been dissolved or the dissolution of Lok Sabha takes place within the period allowed for its approval, then the proclamation remains effective, if the resolution approving it is passed by Rajya Sabha within the period specified in the Constitution under articles 352, 356 and 360.
Rajya Sabha in Financial Matters
A Money Bill can be introduced only in Lok Sabha. After it is passed by that House, it is transmitted to Rajya Sabha for its concurrence or recommendation. 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 said 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 may either accept or reject all or any of the recommendations made by Rajya Sabha.
Apart from a Money Bill, certain other categories of Financial Bills also cannot be introduced in Rajya Sabha. There are, however, some other types of Financial Bills on which there is no limitation on the powers of the Rajya Sabha. These Bills may be initiated in either House and Rajya Sabha has powers to reject or amend such Financial Bills like any other Bill. Of course, such Bills cannot be passed by either House of Parliament unless the President has recommended to that House the consideration thereof.
From all this, however, it does not follow that Rajya Sabha has nothing to do in matters relating to finance. The Budget of the Government of India is laid every year before Rajya Sabha also and its members discuss it. Though Rajya Sabha does not vote on Demands for Grants of various Ministries – a matter exclusively reserved for Lok Sabha – no money, however, can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India unless the Appropriation Bill has been passed by both the Houses. Similarly, the Finance Bill is also brought before Rajya Sabha. Besides, the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees that examine the annual Demands for Grants of the Ministries/Departments are joint committees having ten members from Rajya Sabha.
Leader of the House
Apart from the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, Leader of the House is another functionary who plays important role in the efficient and smooth conduct of the business in the House. The Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha is normally the Prime Minister, if he is its member or any Minister who is a member of the House and is nominated by him to so function. His primary responsibility is to maintain coordination amongst all sections of the House for a harmonious and meaningful debate in the House. For this purpose, he remains in close contact not only with the Government but also with the Opposition, individual ministers and the Presiding Officer. He occupies the first seat in the Chamber in first row at right the side of the Chair so that he is easily available to the Presiding Officer for consultation. Under the rules, the Leader of the House is consulted by the Chairman in regard to the arrangement of Government business in the House, allotment of days or allocation of time for discussion on the President’s Address, Private Members’ business on any day other than Friday, discussion on No Day-Yet-Named Motions, Short Duration Discussions and consideration and return of a Money Bill. He is also consulted by the Chairman in the matter of adjournment or otherwise of the House for the day in case of death of an outstanding personality, national leader or international dignitary. In the era of coalition governments, his task has become more challenging. He ensures that all possible and reasonable facilities are made available to the House for a meaningful discussion on any matter that is brought before it. He works as the spokesperson of the House in expressing sense of the House and represents it on ceremonial or formal occasions.
Leader of the Opposition (LOP)
The office of the Leader of the Opposition in a legislature is of great public importance. Its importance emanates from the central role accorded to the Opposition in a parliamentary democracy. The role of the Leader of the Opposition, in fact, is more difficult as he has to criticize, find fault and present alternative proposals/policies with no power to implement them. He has, thus, to perform a special responsibility to Parliament and to the nation.
In Rajya Sabha until 1969, there was no Leader of the Opposition in real sense of the term. Till then, the practice was to call the Leader of the party in Opposition having the largest number of the members as the Leader of the Opposition, without according him any formal recognition, status or privilege. The office of Leader of the Opposition was given official recognition through the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977. This Act defines the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, as a member of the Council of States who is, for the time being, the Leader in that House of the party in opposition to the Government constituting the greatest numerical strength and recognized as such by the Chairman of the Council of States. Thus, the Leader of the Opposition should satisfy three conditions, namely, (i) he should be a member of the House (ii) the Leader in Rajya Sabha of the party in opposition to the Government having the greatest numerical strength and (iii) be recognized as such by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha.
Rajya Sabha has played a constructive and effective role in our polity. Its performance in the legislative field and in influencing the Government policies has been quite significant.
Rajya Sabha has, in fact, worked in a spirit of cooperation with Lok Sabha as per the Constitutional mandate. Rajya Sabha has prevented hasty legislation and has served as dignified chamber representing the federal principle. As a federal chamber, it has worked for the unity and integrity of the nation and has reinforced the faith of the people in parliamentary democracy.