Q. “Upper House of the Indian Parliament has lost its relevance in contemporary times”. Comment.
India adopted federal form of governance where the states are represented through the Upper House. Except Money Bills, Upper House plays an important role in the law making process in the country. It also plays the role of counsel to states; however, some experts are of the view that this House should be abolished as it is not serving any utilitarian purpose in contemporary times.
Their arguments are:
- In the era of coalition politics, Lok Sabha looks a lot like the Rajya Sabha that was perceived at the time of Independence. The fear of states not having enough representation in Parliament is not true anymore. With our polity becoming increasingly fragmented, regions and states are well represented in the Lower House by various parties that have no national interests but narrow regional agendas. The federal structure of India is sound and regional interests are adequately represented in the Lower House, thus rendering the Upper House redundant.
- Voting pattern in Rajya Sabha is not on the basis of interests of the states but on the contrary it happens to be on the party line; It has become a platform for parties to further their political agenda than to debate and improve legislation. Important legislations that are passed in the Lok Sabha are scuttled in Rajya Sabha for political reasons.
- Rajya Sabha lacks the numbers vis-a-vis Lok Sabha and in a Joint sitting will of the Lower House prevails.
- In the case of Money Bill, it is the Lower House which has supremacy over Rajya Sabha and final approval whether a bill is Money Bill or not is a prerogative of the speaker. Upper House has no say in it.
- Second chamber is essentially undemocratic as it can override the opinion of a directly elected House. GST bill despite having support of Lower House is incessantly delayed by Upper House.
However above points in no way strengthen the argument for its dissolution. Although some lacunas are there in its functioning but imminent need for reforming and restructuring the Institution and not its abolition.
Some points which prove the worth of this house are:
- Upper House provides for detailed scrutiny of bills which may have been rushed through in haste due to political compulsions by the elected members and also acts as a check on such actions.
- Second chamber introduces an element of sobriety and second thought. As a revising Chamber also, the Rajya Sabha has revised a number of Bills passed by Lok Sabha. Among some of the important Bills revised are the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 1961 and the National Honor Bill, 1971 wherein some substantial amendments suggested by the Rajya Sabha were accepted by the Lok Sabha.
- This House brings forth the views of the states and serves as a platform to deliberate concerns of the states. This House is necessary to move in the direction of cooperative federalism.
As Dr. B. R. Ambedkar said “Men are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die”. There is need to bring changes in the functioning of House.