Parliament Of India


What Is A Legislature?

It is the legislative body (a representative assembly of persons that makes laws ) of a country or state. In India, Parliament is the supreme legislative body; it is composed of the President of India and the houses. It is bicameral with two houses: Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). Legislatures are elected by the people and work on behalf of the people.

Why Do We Need A Parliament?

Legislature is not merely a law making body. Lawmaking is but one of the functions of the legislature. It is the centre of all democratic political process. It is packed with action; walkouts, protests, demonstration, unanimity, concern and co-operation. All these serve very vital purposes. Indeed, a genuine democracy is inconceivable without a representative, efficient and effective legislature. The legislature also helps people in holding the representatives accountable. This is indeed, the very basis of representative democracy.

Yet, in most democracies, legislatures are losing central place to the executive. In India too, the Cabinet initiates policies, sets the agenda for governance and carries them through. This has led some critics to remark that the Parliament has declined. But even very strong cabinets must retain majority in the legislature. A strong leader has to face the Parliament and answer to the satisfaction of the Parliament. Herein lies the democratic potential of the Parliament. It is recognised as one of the most democratic and open forum of debate.

On account of its composition, it is the most representative of all organs of government. It is above all, vested with the power to choose and dismiss the government.

Why Do We Need Two Houses Of Parliament?

  • The term ‘Parliament’ refers to the national legislature.
  • The legislature of the States is described as State legislature.

The Parliament in India has two houses. When there are two houses of the legislature, it is called a bicameral legislature. The two Houses of the Indian Parliament are the Council of States or the Rajya Sabha and the House of People or Lok Sabha.

The Constitution has given the States the option of establishing either a unicameral or bicameral legislature. At present only five States have a bicameral legislature, viz.,

  • Bihar,
  • Jammu and Kashmir,
  • Karnataka,
  • Maharashtra,
  • Uttar Pradesh

Countries with large size and much diversity usually prefer to have two houses of the national legislature to give representation to all sections in the society and to give representation to all geographical regions or parts of the country.

A bicameral legislature has one more advantage. A bicameral legislature makes it possible to have every decision reconsidered. Every decision taken by one house goes to the other house for its decision. This means that every bill and policy would be discussed twice. This ensures a double check on every matter. Even if one house takes a decision in haste, that decision will come for discussion in the other house and reconsideration will be possible.

Rajya Sabha

Each of the two Houses of the Parliament has different bases of representation. The Rajya Sabha represents the States of India. It is an indirectly elected body. Residents of the State elect members to State Legislative Assembly. The elected members of State Legislative Assembly in turn elect the members of Rajya Sabha.

We can imagine two different principles of representation in the second chamber.

  • One way is to give equal representation to all the parts of the country irrespective of their size or population. We may call this as symmetrical representation.
  • On the other hand, parts of the country may be given representation according to their population. This second method means that regions or parts having larger population would have more representatives in the second chamber than regions having less population.

In the U.S.A, every state has equal representation in the Senate. This ensures equality of all the states. But this also means that a small state would have the same representation as the larger states.

The system of representation adopted for the Rajya Sabha is different from that in the USA. The number of members to be elected from each State has been fixed by the fourth schedule of the Constitution.

What would happen if we were to follow the American system of equality of representation in the Rajya Sabha?

Uttar Pradesh with a population of 1718.29 lakhs would get seats equal to that of Sikkim whose population is only 5.71 lakhs. The framers of the Constitution wanted to prevent such discrepancy. States with larger population get more representatives than States with smaller population get. Thus, a more populous State like Uttar Pradesh sends 31 members to Rajya Sabha, while a smaller and less populous State like Sikkim has one seat in the Rajya Sabha.

Rajya Sabha Members

  • Members are elected for a term of six years.
  • They can get re-elected.
  • Every two years, one third members of the Rajya Sabha complete their term and elections are held for those one third seats only.
    • Thus,
      • all members of the Rajya Sabha do not complete their terms at the same time.
      • the Rajya Sabha is never fully dissolved.
      • it is called the permanent House of the Parliament.
    • The advantage of this arrangement is that even when the Lok Sabha is dissolved and elections are yet to take place, the meeting of the Rajya Sabha can be called and urgent business can be conducted.

Apart from the elected members, Rajya Sabha also has twelve nominated members. The President nominates these members. These nominations are made from among those persons who have made their mark in the fields of literature, arts, social service, science etc.

Seats in Rajya Sabha

  • 245 total
  • 233 Elected
  • 12 Nominated
  • 1 Vacant (1 Elected Seat)
  • A maximum of 250 allowed in the constitution

Lok Sabha

The Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies are directly elected by the people. For the purpose of election, the entire country (State, in case of State Legislative Assembly) is divided into territorial constituencies of roughly equal population. One representative is elected from each constituency through universal, adult suffrage where the value of vote of every individual would be equal to another. At present there are 543 constituencies. This number has not changed since 1971.

The Lok Sabha is elected for a period of five years. This is the maximum. Before the completion of five years, the Lok Sabha can be dissolved if no party or coalition can form the government or if the Prime Minister advises the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha and hold fresh elections.

Bicameralism In Germany

Germany has a bicameral legislature. The two Houses are known as Federal Assembly (Bundestag) and Federal Council (Bundesrat). Assembly is elected by a complex system combining direct and proportional representation for a period of four years.

The 16 federal states of Germany are represented in the Federal Council. The 69 seats of the Bundesrat are divided among states on the basis of a range of populations. These members are generally the ministers in the governments at the state level and are appointed, not elected, by the governments of the federal states. According to the German law, all the members from one state have to vote as a bloc as per the instructions of the state governments. Sometimes due to coalition government at the state level, they fail to reach an agreement and may have to abstain.

The Bundesrat does not vote on all legislative initiatives but all the policy areas on which the federal states have concurrent powers and are responsible for federal regulations must be passed by it. It can also veto such legislation.

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Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Constitution At Work

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