Rajya Sabha means the ‘Council of States’, and is also the upper house of the Indian Parliament.
Rajya Sabha is an essential part of the triumvirate, that is at the core of the functioning of the government of India. The Rajya Sabha, along with Lok Sabha and the President of India forms a holy trinity of sorts, through which every law and legislation in the country is passed and observed. In fact, all the amendments necessary to the Constitution are also carried out with the approvals of the two houses of the Parliament, i.e. the Lok Sabha (Lower House) and the Rajya Sabha (Upper House).
Elements of the Rajya Sabha: The Rajya Sabha is an extremely signinficant establishment of the Parliament of India. Literally meaning the council of states, the Rajya Sabha houses members from various states and union territories of India. The Rajya Sabha can have no more than 250 members. Out of the 250 members present in the house, 238 are representatives of their respective state and territorial legislative assemblies, while the remaining 12 are personally nominated by the President of India from the fields of arts, literature, social activism, etc.
Eligibility for Membership: Accordiang to Article 84 of the Constitution of India, a person can be cleared to be a member of the Rajya Sabha only under the following terms and conditions:
- He/she must be a citizen of India and make and subscribe before some person authorized in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution;
- He/she must be not less than 30 years of age;
- He/she must possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
Authority: The Rajya Sabha is always presided by a Chairman. Usually, the Vice President of India plays the role of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. In his absence, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha presides over the house. The Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is chosen by the members among themselves. In the event of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman’s absence, a member of the Rajya Sabha belonging to the panel of Vice Chairmen can step up to the designation of overseeing the proceedings of the house.
Leader of the House: Besides the personalities standing guard to the proceedings of the house, the Rajya Sabha also includes a Leader of the House who is responsible for making available all the facilities that will help the house to successfully debate a topic to conclusion. Normally, the Prime Minister of India takes up this role. He/she also represents the house by playing its spokesperson on formal occasions. The Leader of the house takes his place next to the Chairman on the right, so that the latter can take his advice and consult him/her whenever necessary.
Leader of Opposition: The term opposition refers to the parties or the coalition of parties who rival the ruling party. The opposition has been granted a considerable amount of importance in the Constitution of India. The opposition is responsible for criticizing the ruling party for its governing policies and strategies. The opposition is also responsible for questioning the government and finding its flaws in the system of governance in order to perfect it in due course of time. The Leader of Opposition represents the opposition and voices various concerns on its behalf during the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha.
Election and retirement of members: Out of the 250 members of the Rajya Sabha, twelve members are personally appointed by the President of India. The President chooses these set of members from the fields of arts, literature, science, social science, etc. The remaining 238 members are made part of the Rajya Sabha by a voting process in the legislative assemblies of their respective states. The members who are elected for a full six-year term retire after the end of their stipulated membership period. However, a one-third of the Rajya Sabha members retire biennially, i.e. in every two years. These members are replaced by other members for the remaining time period.
Powers of the Rajya Sabha: The primary function of the Rajya Sabha is to pass laws, legislations and bills in partnership with the Lok Sabha. The bills approved by the Lok Sabha have to be duly approved by the Rajya Sabha for them to translate into laws or legislations. Some of the most important debates concerning the country’s future are debated in the Rajya Sabha. In fact, the Union Budget of India is presented before the Rajya Sabha at the start of every financial year. However, the Rajya Sabha has limited influence over financial matters that are being discussed in the Parliament, as the Constitution enables the Lok Sabha to hold an upper hand in these matters.
Disqualification of Membership: The Constitution of India also defines the parameters of disqualifying an individual as a member of the Rajya Sabha:
- If he/she holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder;
- If he/she is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
- If he/she is an undischarged insolvent;
- If he/she is not a citizen of India, or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State, or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance or adherence to a foreign State;
- If he/she is so disqualified by or under any law made by Parliament.
The above was a brief on the structure and essentials of Rajya Sabha.