Context:

  • The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year. After 68 years, it is instructive to revisit the debates on the need for a Council of States and its Performance Since then.

Brief 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.

Bicameralism and Federalism

  • Bicameralism is a Principle that requires the Consent of Two Differently Constituted Chambers of Parliament for making or Changing Laws.
  • Federalism has been in vogue since ancient times when some states got together to confer the power of law-making on a Central Authority.
  • But modern federalism is entirely different given the complexity of geographical, regional, social and economic diversities marking the constituent units of a federation or a union. It is more so in India.
  • Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature.

Constituent Assembly Debates:

  • Arguments Against the Second Chamber:
  • Upper House was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism
  • Second chamber would only prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation.
  • The second chamber would obstruct the quick law making.
  • Some others vehemently opposed parity of powers in law-making for the Upper House.
  • Proponents of the Second Chamber:
  • It would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought besides lending voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things
  • It would enable the genius of the people to have full play besides checking hasty legislation.
  • Gopalaswami Ayyangar 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.
  • The role of the Upper House is to be a deliberative body besides balancing the “fickleness and passion” of the Elected House.

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.

Source: The Hindu

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