What are the Powers and Functions of Rajya Sabha?

The Rajya Sabha performs several functions and these are largely as important as functions of the Lok Sabha. However, in financial matters, the Rajya Sabha plays a distinctly secondary role.

(i) Legislative Powers:

All non-Money Bills can be introduced in either House of the Parliament and such a bill, to be an Act, must be passed by both Houses of the Parliament. Thus any non-Money Bill can originate in the Rajya Sabha, and if a non-Money Bill been initiated and approved by the Lok Sabha, it has to be approved by the Rajya Sa before it becomes an Act. Similarly, a non-Money Bill, originating in and approved by Rajya Sabha, has to be passed by the Lok Sabha before it becomes a law.

In case of disagreement between the two Houses on any non-Money Bill, the President can convene a joint sitting of both Houses to determine its fate. A non-Money Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha, can be delayed by the Rajya Sabha for a maximum period of six months. If the Rajya Sabha fails to take any action on the bill within 6 months from the date of receipt of the bill, a joint sitting of the two Houses will be convened.

In joint sittings, decisions will be taken by simple majority. As the strength of the Sabha is much larger than that of the Rajya Sabha, the views of the former will prevail over those of the latter in joint meetings of both Houses. Thus, even in case of non-Mon Bills the Rajya Sabha plays a subordinate role as compared to the Lok Sabha.

As said above, the Rajya Sabha can delay a non-Money Bill, already passed by Lok Sabha, for a period of six months. This power to delay may enable the members Rajya Sabha to properly review and revise the bill which might have been passed hastily by the other House. This is a check on hasty and ill-considered legislation.

(ii) Financial Powers:

A Money Bill cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha. It is the prerogative of the Lok Sabha to initiate it. After its approval by the Lok Sabha, it sent to the Rajya Sabha for its 'recommendation'. The Upper House cannot change it in form, though it may suggest some changes which may or may not be accepted by the Lok Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha has power to delay a Money Bill, but not for more than fourteen days. It may be remembered that in case of non-Money Bills the Rajya Sabha has power to delay them for six months. There is provision for joint sitting if there is disagreement between the two Houses over any non-money bill. But there is no such provision for joint sitting in case of disagreement between them over a Money Bill.

Whether a bill is a Money Bill or not will be decided by the Speaker of the Low House. The Upper House has no power to decide it.

(iii) Control over Executive:

Though the Rajya Sabha is not an equal of the Lok Sabha in controlling the Executive, its powers, in this respect, are not insignificant. True the Council of Ministers is responsible only to the Lok Sabha, but the Ministers are not totally free from control by the Rajya Sabha. Through questioning, the members of Rajya Sabha can elicit information about Ministers. They can criticize the latter, their Departments and policies. And it has to be kept in mind that criticisms by the Elders (members of the Rajya Sabha) are taken seriously by Ministers.

Moreover, the Rajya Sabha has power of investigation on any governmental affair. The Rajya Sabha has no power to pass a vote of non confidence against the Council of Ministers, while the Lok Sabha has this power. But in several ways, the Upper House can have control over the Central Executive, though such control is limited and mostly indirect.

(iv) Judicial Power:

In the impeachment of the President of India, the Rajya Sabha has coequal powers with the Lok Sabha. This power of impeachment is shared by both Houses. The Rajya Sabha can draw up charges against the President. In that case, the Lok Sabha shall sit as the Court of Investigation. If the Lok Sabha draws up charges, it is the Rajya Sabha which will sit as the Court of Investigation.

The power to remove the Vice-President of India is shared by the Upper House and the Lower House. The motion for his removal is to be passed in the Upper House by the majority of its members and then it is to be approved by the Lower House. Similarly, the two Houses share power to remove the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. The Upper House has power to punish persons committing the breach of privilege.

(v) Constituent Power:

The constituent powers of the Rajya Sabha are mainly two in number. First, it shares the power with the Lok Sabha to amend the Constitution. Secondly, with two-third majority vote of the members present and voting, the Rajya Sabha can empower the Parliament to make law on any matter contained in the State List on the ground of national importance.

(vi) Electoral Power:

The Rajya Sabha takes part in the election of the President as well as of the Vice-President of India. The Vice-Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is also elected by its members.

(vii) Special Powers:

(1) According to Article 249, the Parliament will be able to make law in relation to a subject in the State List if the Rajya Sabha, with the support of at least two-thirds of its members present and voting, adopts a proposal to the effect that the Parliament, in national interest, should make law in relation to that subject in the State List. (2) If the Central Government wants to create or abolish any all-India service like Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service etc., it has to obtain the approval of the Rajya Sabha. (3) The resolution for removal of the Vice- President of India has to be first moved in the Rajya Sabha.