Last week Rajya Sabha elections were held across various states in India. While the whole process of camping, voting and delayed counting was going on, a dear friend remarked, “What a waste of taxpayers’ money!! Why this whole process of complicated counting of votes? Why not just have one House where the law makers are directly elected by We The People of India.”
I went whole hog and tried explaining him the process but I guess I wasn’t still able to convince him. So this one is for you my dear friend and like they say – शुरू से शुर शुरू करते हैं !!
On 3rd January 1949, the Constituent Assembly took up Article 66 of the Draft Constitution (Article 79 of the Final Constitution) for debate & deliberate to constitute a Parliament for India that was to comprise of The President and two houses – Council of States (Rajya Sabha/Upper House) and the House of People (Lok Sabha/Lower House).
Constituent Assembly member from Odisha Shri Lokanath Mishra moved an amendment to remove the term ‘Council of States’ from the Draft Article – he did not want an upper house. Since the Draft Constitution did not provide for such upper house, he saw no need for an upper house at all – “it was a waste of public money and time.” (Just the kind of point my friend put forth)
MA Ayyangar – A Constituent Assembly member from now Tamil Nadu and who later went on to become the Speaker of The Lok Sabha defended the need of The Rajya Sabha. He argued that parliament needed an upper house for the following reasons:
- First, that politics must be a space for a range of people to take part; the upper house would be space ‘where the genius of the people may have full play’.
- Second, the upper house would act as a check on any hasty legislation that lower house may pass.
- Third, the upper house, unlike the lower house, would be permanently elected.
And the motion was accepted and lo and behold we have had the Upper House ever since.
It’s the way our Constitution provides adequate Checks and Balances. The no. of seats that each state is allocated is according to its population. Its members are always there to deliberate, discuss and approve/disapprove various important matters, case in point being to validate the Emergency under Article 352 for a limited period when the Lok Sabha remains dissolved.
A brute majority in Lok Sabha of one party does not end up becoming tyrannical and thus its actions are to be checked by the Upper House whose members are elected by the state legislature and have different considerations to look into.
Now let us look at the tables below. This data shows the number of seats and the share in the respective houses of the various political parties. For better understanding I have just taken the top 6.
While the top 4 parties remain the same in both the houses the next two are different. Even in terms of percentage points how different it is. While BJP on its own have around 55.7% Lok Sabha seats in the Rajya Sabha is way lower at 38.8%.
Ironically none of the other 4 parties besides the Congress are the allies of the BJP at least officially.
In the 8 years of the NDA rule we have seen various controversial and questionable laws that it wanted to pass had to be put on hold due to its inability to garner nos. in the Upper House. Bills related to Land Acquisition and the Lok Pal / Lok Ayukta which sailed thru the Lok Sabha were suitably amended by the Rajya Sabha.
Thus our constituent members had the foresight to envisage such a situation which necessitated the creation of Upper House.
One of the Sanskrit Shloka from The Mahabharat has been inscribed in the Parliament building:
” न सा सभा यत्र न सन्ति वृध्दा:, वृध्दा न ते ये न वदन्ति धर्मम्।
धर्म स नो यत्र न सत्यमस्ति , सत्यं न तत् यत् छलमभ्युपैति॥ “
Which means –
That’s not an Assembly where there are no wise persons,
Those are not wise, who do not speak with righteousness,
That’s no righteousness where there is no truth,
That’s not the truth which leads one to deceit.
So let the people of our country be benefitted from the counsel and wisdom of the members of both the houses.
I hope my friend, I am able to convince you now.