What are the special powers of the Rajya Sabha of India?



The constitution assigns some special powers to the Rajya Sabha in this context. It is provided that if a proclamation of emergency is issued when the Lok Sabha remains dissolved on its dissolution takes place during the period of one month.

There from and a resolution approving the proclamation is passed by the Rajya Sabha the proclamation would be legally effective up to a maximum of 30 days from the date on which the Lok Sabha sits after the reconstitution.

The constitution by this provision assigns a special role to the Rajya Sabha when the Lok Sabha stands dissolved. There is a similar provision in case of failure of constitutional machinery in states.

Besides, there are two other provisions which confer upon the Rajya Sabha, as the sole representative of the states, power in its own right and to the inclusion of the Lok Sabha. These are of considerable importance from a constitutional point of view.

Under Article 249, the Rajya Sabha may by a resolution supported by not less than two thirds of the members present and voting declare that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest that Parliament should make law with respect to any matter enumerated in the state list specified in the resolution.

After such a declaration, it is lawful for the Parliament to make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India with respect to that matter while the resolution remains in force. Such a resolution will remain in force for such period not exceeding one year as may be specified there in but its period can be extended by one year at a time by passing a further resolution.

This constitutional provision specifically recognized the Rajya Sabha as the representative of the states and on the authority of the Rajya Sabha in that capacity the Parliament becomes competent to legislate on a subject exclusively reserved for the state legislatures. The second exclusive power of the Rajya Sabha is connected with the setting up of All India services.

The special characteristics of All India Service is that it is common to the union and the states. As such, the setting up of such a service affects the powers of the states. Therefore, here again, the council is given the power to decide by a resolution supported by a two-thirds majority the question of setting up of an all India Services.

Hence, any laws connected with such a service can be initiated only if the Rajya passes such a resolution. The Rajya Sabha passed such resolution on two occasions; one in 1961 for the creation of (i) the Indian Service of Engineers, (ii) the Indian Forest Service, and (iii) the Indian Medical and Health Service; and the other in 1965 for the creation of the Indian Agricultural Service and the Indian Educational Service.

"In both these case, the Loksabha comes into the picture only after the Rajya Sabha has acted and the Lok Sabha does not share the power of the Rajya Sabha in deciding as to what action is necessary under both the contigencies".

M. V. Pylee has very rightly observed: "These provisions make the Rajya Sabha an important part of the Government machinery and not an ornamental super structure or an in essential adjunct".

Though our Rajya Sabha does not occupy as important place in the constitutional systems as the American Senate, its position is not so inferior as that of the House of Lords as it stands today barring the specific provisions with respect to which the lower house has special functions, i.e., with respect to money bill, the constitution proceeds on a theory of equality of status of the two houses.

The constitution also makes no distinction between the two houses in matter of selection of Ministers. In this connection it would be interesting to note that some of the most important ministers of the Government were for some time or other members of the Rajya Sabha.

In the debates of the Constituent Assembly, some argued that second chambers were undemocratic bastions of vested interest and acted as "clog in the wheels of progress". Others uphold the chamber as "an essential element of federal constitutions", declaring that it introduced "an element of sobriety and second thought" in to the democratic process. Today criticism of the Rajya Sabha seems to be growing on the following grounds."

1stly, The Rajya Sabha was originally intended to protect the interests and views of the federating units or states. But in practice, it has so far never stood for the rights of the states. Its members have felt least concerned with the erosion of the powers of the states.

The failure of the Rajya Sabha to act as champion of the state's rights is generally attributed to the fact that its members are not subject to any direct control of the states they seek to represent.

2ndly, as a chamber of legislative revision, the Rajya Sabha's performance has been far from reassuring. During the period between 1952 and 1969, the Rajya Sabha has amended 28 bills. Most of its revisions were insignificant and were of clerical mistakes.

3rdly, while the members of the Rajya Sabha are chosen on a different basis from the members of the Lok Sabha and while presumably these members represent the states of the Indian union, there is little difference in age, experience, background and outlook between members the two houses. So Rajya Sabha is pale shadow of the Lok Sabha.

4thly, as a delaying chamber also, the achievements of the Rajya Sabha are hardly impressive. There is evidence to suggest that in the first twenty years of its existence, it delayed only one bill the Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1959.

5thly, Nor has the Rajya Sabha emerged as a House of Elders in which persons of mature wisdom and wide experience debate questions of public policy in a non-partisan manner.

6thly, The framers also conceived of the Rajya Sabha as a sort of a House of Elders which would provide representation to learning and experience and where seasoned people would hold dignified debates.

In spite of the above weakness, Rajya Sabha has also some importance. The Rajya Sabha as a Legislative chamber has combined dignity with intense activity. The debates have been of high standard.

The Rajya Sabha has been an active body. During the lifetime of India's first Parliament from 1952 to 1956, the Rajya Sabha, in 15 sessions dealt with 363 bills. One hundred and one bills 69 Government bills and 32 private member's bills originated in the Rajya Sabha.

Among these were four important social measures-the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, the Hindu Succession Act, and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act which formed vital parts of the so-called Hindu Code Bill.

The record of the Rajya Sabha would show that it has reflected a remarkable response to the public opinion. In 1969, responding to the strong feeling in the country for the abolition of privy purses and privileges of the former rulers of the Indian states, the Rajya Sabha unanimously adopted a private member's resolution calling upon the Government of India to initiate steps for abolition of privy purses and other privileges of the former princes.

In brief, the Rajya Sabha has played its role effectively in the affairs of the state and has proved equal to the task, as a co­partner of the Lok Sabha, assigned to it under the constitution.

The constitution of India has setup two Houses with different composition and distinct functions have been assigned to them. But like a pair of blades in the scissors, both have to function together harmoniously so as to ensure the success of parliamentary democracy in our country.