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Rajya Sabha

13th May – Rajya Sabha

The need for a second chamber

The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year.

How Rajya Sabha came into being?

  • The second chamber underwent severe prenatal scrutiny in the Constituent Assembly. The proposal for a bicameral central legislature for the country was discussed at length, with deep divisions between the proponents and opponents.
  • From this churning that went on for eight days with the participation of leading members of the Constituent Assembly finally emerged the Council of States and its mandate.
  • After 68 years, it is instructive to revisit the debates on the need for a Council of States and its performance since then.

Background –

  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral with a Council of States comprising 60 members and a Legislative Assembly comprising 145 members.
  • The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were so restrictive that only wealthy land owners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it. Women could neither vote nor seek membership.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Need for a second chamber –

  • In The Federalist, the famous essays written in 1787-88 by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to explain the U.S. Constitution, it was stated that the second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion besides checking the propensity to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.
  • The U.S. Constitution-makers were influenced by the proposition of the renowned French philosopher Montesquieu who said, “The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
  • Walter Bagehot later noted that the retarding chamber will impede minor instances of parliamentary tyranny, though it will not prevent or really impede revolution.
  • Proponents of the second chamber in Indian Constituent Assembly such as Naziruddin Ahmad felt that it would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought besides lending voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.
  • M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar argued that a second chamber would enable the genius of the people to have full play besides checking hasty legislation.
  • N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar made a strong case for the second chamber. Replying to the debate on the motion, he argued that “the most that we expect the Second Chamber to do is perhaps to hold dignified debates on important issues and to delay legislations which might be the outcome of passions of the moment until the passions have subsided and calm consideration could be bestowed on the measures which will be before the Legislature.”

Conclusion –

The House elected directly by the people is susceptible to passions of the moment and electoral considerations. Their imprint on legislation needs to be checked by the second chamber whose members are expected to be sober, wise and well-informed with domain knowledge. The mandate of the Rajya Sabha, as can be gleaned from the Constituent Assembly debates and the experiences of other Parliaments, is legislation — to revise or delay legislation without proving a clog in the wheel of the progress; to represent the interests of the States as a federal chamber; and be a deliberative body holding high-quality debates on important issues.

SourceThe Hindu

QUESTION – The second chamber of the Parliament is sometimes referred to as the clog in the wheel of progress. Is there a need of second chamber of House in India? Comment.

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