Legislature are constituted on different principles of legislature composed of a single chamber is known as Unicameral legislature. Unicameral legislatures were popular in U.S.A and France in 18th century. The experience with unicameral legislature however was not a happy one. It created much of political instability, anarchy and violence. With exceptions modern states, have replaced unicameral system with bicameral legislatures. Bicameral legislatures consist of two chambers. The development of legislative bodies consisting of two chambers owe its origin to Great Britain.
The bicameral system is found convenient as it accommodates proper representation of different interest in the legislature. Under a federation a bicameral legislature is adopted as a means of representing state or local interest in the upper chamber and national and popular interest in the “Lower”.
There exists difference in structure, functions tenure and role in the relationship, between the two chambers. Normally the life of the upper chamber is longer than the lower chamber though the later enjoys greater authority.
The chief merits of bicameral system is that is works as a check against hasty legislation. Sometimes under pressure of work or political consideration the Lower House may pass bills without taking in to account it’s for reaching effects. The Upper House through its powers to delay a bill for six months can create public opinion pressuring the Lower House to reconsider the bill in public interest. Also it may reject the bill to provide an opportunity to rediscuss the bill in the joint session to draw the attention of the majority of members to the lapses in the bill. Mill believed that by virtue of law making power entrusted to a unicameral chamber, it may be despotic owing to its unlimited authority in the sphere. The presence of a second chamber checks the arrogance and despotism of the single chamber and safeguards the liberty of the individuals.
Further bicameralism gives representation to different class and interest. It also assures representation of minorities and other professional interests. There are highly talented persons in every country who usually fight shy of elections. In a bicameral system such talents can easily be accommodated. For example in India person with outstanding contribution in different fields are nominated by the President of India to the upper chamber, who otherwise would not like to contest in elections.
A second chamber reduces the pressure on the lower chamber. Under too much pressure of work the Lower House has hardly any time to devote to legislation. The presence of a Second Chamber, through its power to initiate legislation can considerably reduce the load off the lower chamber.
Although there are host of other merits that can be attributed to bicameralism it may be concluded with the observation of J.A.R. Marriot that the experience of history favours bicameralism. Whatever its form of government, no major state would ever like to give up its second chamber. It is foolish to disrespect the lessons of history.
However the antagonists of bicameralism have also their points of views, against the advantages cited. Many writers and thinkers like Abbesiyes, Bentham, Laski and Maclver believe that bicameralism really does not serve any purpose. They hold that a bicameral legislature is divided against itself, it sacrifices the great principle of unity by dividing the sovereignty.
There is unnecessary duplication of work in a bicameral system. There is wastage of precious time when the same work is done twice in both the chambers of the legislature. This leads to colossal wastage of money for maintaining a duplicating body. Laski believes that any second chamber which agrees with the first is superfluous; and if it disagrees it is bound to be obnoxious. In most of the country the world over with the exception U.S.A. the Second Chambers continue to exist in weak form.
A significant objection raised against a second chamber is that it obstructs the will of the people. It is wrong to assume that bills passed in single chamber are ill-considered. In fact the law made in a legislature is the result of a long process of discussion and consideration. The legislatures take a holistic view while making law. Such being the case it is neither desirable non necessary to delay the process of legislation. Instead a single chamber expedites the passing of a law.
Double chamber system is expensive. Under such a system the two chambers besides paying salaries to their members also spend money to maintain their respective secretariats and in the process put huge strain on the exchequer of the state spending such huge amount is only wasteful. Therefore many scholars like Laski and others maintain that a single chamber while relieving pressure on the exchequer also ensures speedy transaction of business.