The Upper House of India’s Parliament is called the Rajya Sabha. The provision for a second chamber of the Parliament is in line with the principle of federalism. In all federations, the national legislature has two chambers, a Lower House, and an Upper House.
Composition of Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha can have, at most, 250 members out of which 12 members will be nominated by the President. The persons who are so nominated must have achieved distinction in the fields of literature, art, science and social service. At times, nomination to the Rajya Sabha has raised some controversy. It has been criticized that some persons have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha due to their political links.
At the maximum, 238 persons can be elected to the Rajya Sabha from the states and Union Territories. The election to the Rajya Sabha is indirect. So far as the states are concerned, it is only the Legislative Assemblies which can elect members to the Rajya Sabha. The Legislative Councils have no power to take part in the election of Rajya Sabha members.
The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected according to the principle of proportional representation with a single transferable vote.
The number of members that a state or a Union Territory can send to the Rajya Sabha is determined roughly on the basis of its population. For the first five million of people, one seat is allotted for one million. But, for the people above 5 million, one seat is allotted for every two million.
As a result, the larger states send more members to the Rajya Sabha than the smaller ones. While Uttar Pradesh has 27 members in Rajya Sabha, Orissa has 10 and Nagaland, only one in that body.
In the United States of America, the upper house called the Senate has 100 members and 2 members are elected from each state. (There are 50 states in the USA). Thus, in the American Senate each state is equally represented. In India, the states are not equally represented in the Rajya Sabha. Some critics say that this is contrary to the principle of federalism which normally provides for equality of constituent units.
In the Constituent Assembly the principle of equality of states in respect of representation in the Rajya Sabha was advocated by some members, but finally this point of view was rejected. As a result, in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, the larger states have much bigger say than the smaller ones.
A person to be eligible to contest in Rajya Sabha elections must have the following qualifications (Article 84).
1. He must be a citizen of India.
2.He must not be less than 30 years of age.
3. He must possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed by the Parliament.
A person shall not be eligible to contest in Rajya Sabha elections if he has any of the following disqualifications. These disqualifications, common to the candidates in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha elections are:
1. Holding an office of profit under the government of India or under any stat government except that of a Minister or any other exempted by a law of Parliament.
2. Being of unsound mind, as declared by a competent court.
3. Being a bankrupt.
4. Being a noncitizen.
5. Being disqualified under any law of Parliament.
As the Rajya Sabha is a permanent body, all its members never vacate their seats at the same time. Every two years one third of its members retire and the vacancies, thus created, are filled by fresh elections. But there is provision for reelection. The members who retire can contest again in Rajya Sabha elections.
The members of the first Rajya Sabha had either a two-year or a four-year or a six- year term. But all other members of Rajya Sabha elected thereafter have been enjoying a full term of six years each. However, those members who have to lose their office due to factors like resignation; death etc. cannot enjoy a full term.
Loss of Seat:
A member of Rajya Sabha shall lose his seat in the House if
(a) He is elected as a member of the Lok Sabha;
(b) He is elected as a member of any State Legislature;
(c) He remains absent from all meetings and sessions of the Rajya Sabha for 60 days without any reason being communicated to the presiding officer;
(d) He is expelled from the Rajya Sabha or
(e) He is found to be disqualified to be a member of Rajya Sabha on any of the grounds mentioned above.