The Rajya Sabha, or the Upper House of India’s Parliament, has undergone a significant transformation in recent decades, going from being viewed as a “useless Stepney tire” to a crucial and supportive organ. There are several factors that have contributed to this transformation, including the following:
- Special powers: While the Rajya Sabha cannot introduce money or finance bills, it does possess certain special powers under its federal functions. These include the ability to pass resolutions allowing Parliament to legislate on matters listed in the State List, create All India Services that apply to both the Union and the States, and approve proclamations of Emergency and President’s Rule when the Lok Sabha is dissolved.
- Legislation in new areas: There is increasing demand for legislation on a wide range of issues. The Rajya Sabha facilitates this by allowing bills to be introduced in either House of Parliament, whether they are government bills or private member’s bills. Both types of bills follow the same procedure, which involves three stages in each House of Parliament and receiving Presidential assent before becoming Acts of Parliament. The Rajya Sabha has passed important bills such as the Right to Education Act of 2009 and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act of 2019.
- Constitution Amendment Bills: The Rajya Sabha has also played a key role in the introduction and passage of several important Constitution Amendment Bills, including the Constitution (Seventy-sixth Amendment) Bill of 1992, the Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Bill of 1994, the Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Bill of 1999, and the Constitution (One Hundred and ninth Amendment) Bill of 2009.
- Deliberative function: The Rajya Sabha also serves a deliberative function, providing opportunities for scrutiny, enabling greater executive accountability, and holding debates on a variety of public issues. This function is seen as a safeguard against the potential absolutism of a unicameral legislature.
Thus the Rajya Sabha has undergone a significant transformation in recent decades, becoming a crucial and supportive organ in India’s parliamentary system.