What are the Merits & Demerits of Bicameralism ?



Merits of Bicameralism:

1. Check on Hasty Legislation-

In a state, laws are of utmost importance because they regulate the life and property of the people. Hence, they are to be made without any bias and with proper care and consideration. The second chamber revises the hasty, ill considered legislation, as it is free from haste, passion and excitement.

2. Check against Tyranny of a Single Chamber-

The existence of a second chamber provides safeguard against the tyranny and despotism of a single chamber legislature. Mill believed that a second chamber would act as a check against "the corrupting influence of undivided power." By checking the despotism of a single chamber, it would safeguard the liberty of individuals.

3. Representation of Different Interests-

It secures representation of various interests and classes. The first chamber is usually based on direct election. The second chamber in some states provides for representation of minorities and of the aristocratic and intellectual elements. For instance, the Rajya Sabha in India has 12 nominated members with special achievement in the fields of art, science, literature and social service.

4. Relief of the Burden-

The second chamber reduces the workload of a single chamber considerably. Noncontroversial bills may at first be introduced in the upper house to minimize the burden of the first chamber.

5. Scope for the Competent and Talented Persons-

It provides opportunity to men of worth and talent to get seats in the upper house. Such men usually fight shy of direct election.

6. Indispensable for Federal Government-

In a federal state there are different units. The federating units or regional governments have their separate identities. They are to be represented in the national legislature. In bicameralism one house can represent the people. The other house can represent the federating units.

7. Makes the People Conscious-

It crystallizes public opinion. By interposing delay in the passing of a legislative measure, it allows the people enough time for reflection and expression of their opinion.

8. Better Legislation-

The second chamber usually contains men of higher age, wisdom and experience. The quality of the debates and discussion in the upper house is better than in the lower house. The members are comparatively free from popular passion and rigid party discipline.

9. Promotes Independence of the Executive-

The bicameral system promotes the independence of the executive. The competition between the two houses prevents any of them from exercising undue influence over the executive.

10. Reconciliation between Radical and Liberal Views-

In bicameralism one house is designed to accommodate young radical people and the other house can accommodate experienced and liberal members. Laws should not be too radical to bring about drastic changes nor should it be too liberal to be effective. In bicameral legislature a balance can be maintained between the two extremes in law-making.

Demerits of Bicameralism

1. An Unnecessary System-

Abbe Sieyes repudiates bicameralism by saying, "Of what use will a second chamber be? If it agrees with the Representative House, it will be superfluous, if it disagrees, mischievous." The second chamber is an unnecessary and expensive addition to the legislative machinery.

2. Wastage of Time and Energy-

Law-making process is a long one of analysis and discussion. After it is completed in one house, according to Laski,, there is no need for repetition of the same thing again in another house. The work in the second chamber is, therefore, only wastage of time and energy.

3. Very Expensive-

Considerable amount of money is spent to maintain a legislature, if the legislature is bicameral more expenditure for the legislature becomes necessary and money comes from the common people in the shape of taxes. So second chamber is a burden on the purse of the governed.

4. Sacrifices Unity-

A two-chambered legislature sacrifices the great principle of unity. Law is the expression of the popular will. "There is no valid reason why popular will should seek two channels of expression, why democracy should speak in two voices?"

5. Blocks Progressive Legislation-

The second chamber may block progressive and welfare legislation. It mostly consists of conservative and aristocratic sections of society. Rivalry between the two houses adversely affects public interest.

6. Does not always safeguard the Interests of the Units of a Federation-

A federation, no doubt, envisages bicameralism for the representation of the units. The representation of the units is necessary for the safeguard of the interests of the units. But in actual practice the interests of the units are not always safeguarded by a second chamber, because the members act according to the party whip.

The actual safeguard of the interests of the units is provided by the constitution and the judicial review. Again, the era of 'Cooperative federalism' highlights the unity and cooperation among various governments.

7. No Satisfactory Method for the Composition of Second Chamber-

Further, no satisfactory method has yet been devised for constituting a second chamber. A hereditary chamber like the British House of Lords is undemocratic. A nominated or indirectly elected second chamber cannot effectively check the first chamber.

A directly elected second chamber like the American Senate virtually overshadows the lower house. Sometimes a combination of different principles is followed and the result is that the house fails to enjoy the pure representative character in most of the cases.

8. Not Number of Chambers but Dedication to Work-

To make good laws for the state, high standard of morality and the sense of dedication for the cause of the people above self interest and party interest are necessary. Dedicated representatives in a single chamber can make better laws than indifferent, selfish and partisan members sitting in two chambers.