Rajya Sabha reforms are the need of the country!

Rajya Sabha reforms are the need of the country!

"The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will." - John Marshall

This kind of thinking was involved while framing the constitution and this mindset is what made it a living document capable of evolving along with time, allowing changes to be made to suit the current socio-economic and political situation of the nation. There were many Constitutional Amendments and Reforms since the adoption of the Indian Constitution. One such pressing reform issue constantly debated is the reforms needed in the Rajya Sabha (RS), the Council of States. Recently the defeat of major reform bills in Rajya Sabha which were passed by Lok Sabha brought the reform topic back to the front page.

Against the Reforms –

1. Avoid hasty decisions – It keeps a check on hasty passage of bills which might have done by the Lok Sabha (LS) under public pressure or populist choice.

2. There are seasoned people who act as wise advisors. Experts in RS contribute to detailed scrutiny and value additions to the bill.

3. There are suggestions regarding term of RS members. However the current system provides continuity, which is beneficial since if LS is dissolved, the RS is still there and can take over the workload.

4. They contain representatives of the states thus making it truly federal. Any tampering with that would defeat their nature and purpose. They protect the states’ interest.

5. It acts as a check on the legislative machinery and avoids any dominancy of the LS. Undisputable dominancy can be dangerous sometimes as it gives power to make changes which might not be in best interest of the nation or may be having adverse effects in the long term.

6. All benefits which the second chamber should provide are provided by RS now. So no change needed.

For the Reforms –

1. A major reason given to make changes to the Rajya Sabha is the delay it causes while passing reform bills.

2. The so called experts in RS can be seen missing the sessions, thus not contributing much to the house. There are serious attendance issues.

3. It has not remained a House of experienced and experts, but has been converted into a refuge for unpopular leaders and its membership is becoming a way of appeasing the loyalists.

4. It is used nowadays to play obstructionist by the opposition instead of having informed and constructive debates on various topics. This has led to the blocking of various reform bills.

5. RS is not doing its work of representing states. Its members represent only their parties nowadays thus defeating its purpose.

6. Also, the states are not equally represented in the RS. There are allegations of larger states dominating the smaller states as the larger states have larger representation owing to its huge population. This needs a reform to bring all on equal footing.

7. Only parliament can initiate constitutional reforms. States are not allowed to do so. With RS members representing their own parties, the states are having no real representation thus having no one to act on their behalf or oppose reforms detrimental to them.

8. It is alleged that RS is going against people’s wishes as popular choice is Lok Sabha’s choice. Reforms are needed to bring them in tune with the current socio-economic and political situation of our nation.

There is absolutely no doubt that reforms are needed. But initiating reforms only when it suits you is not an answer to it. The same Rajya Sabha was used by the ruling parties to play obstructionist policy few years back. Presently, the opposition is extremely weak in the Lok Sabha. An all-India discussion with equal representation from all the concerned stakeholders would be needed to have a meaningful and long term reform to the Upper House. One must bear in mind that most of the reasons which we give for reforming the Rajya Sabha were discussed while framing the constitution and despite that, a bicameral legislature was adopted. And this discussion on the Second Chamber’s role has been done in many of the world’s legislatures including the US and the UK.
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  • RE: Rajya Sabha reforms are the need of the country! -Deepa Kaushik (08/31/15)
  • Rajya Sabha had been formed to keep a checkon the supremacy of the ruling party especially those which are elected with full majority. There can be the possibility that the Government formed with full majority without the requirement for coalition government and even the opposition is not enough strong in number and power, then the centre might pass the bill unopposed. This would be very similar to autocratic rule rather than a democratic set-up, if there is no opposition.

    Opposition holds its own significance in democratic type of Governance. It paves way to different opinion, the pros and cons regarding the specific mandate under discussion. This healthy discussion often opens up many loopholes in the proposed bill which might have otherwise been hushed up by the Centre in majority.

    In all those instances when the lower house is unable to come up with the efficient dicussion before passing a bill, Rajya Sabha plays its crucial role. It helps to explore more refined intricacies in the proposed policy. These hidden details should ideally be discussed before the conversion of the proposal to a law. Rajya Sabha has to be there to clearly place the projects before the commonman.

    Correctly said, if we need not consider Rajya Sabha just for the reason that it is not directly elected, the the upper house would not have been created in first place. Again, it is very much evident that the reason for which the Upper House was created is prevailing evennow and the requirement would always remain for the gnerations to come.