Election of Rajya Sabha
Elections for various Rajya Sabha seats is to be held in March.
The ‘Council of States’ which is also known as Rajya Sabha, a nomenclature that was announced by the chair in the House on the 23rd August, 1954 has its own distinctive features. The origin of the second Chamber can be traced to the Montague-Chelmsford Report of 1918. The Government of India Act, 1919 provided for the creation of a ‘Council of State’ as a second chamber of the then legislature with a restricted franchise which actually came into existence in 1921. The Governor-General was the ex-officio President of the then Council of State. The Government of India Act, 1935, hardly made any changes in its composition.
Process for Election /Nomination
Electoral College: The representatives of the states and of the Union Territories in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the method of indirect election. The representatives of each state and two Union territories are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of that State and by the members of the Electoral College for that Union Territory, as the case may be, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.
Biennial/Bye-election: RS is a permanent House and is not subject to dissolution. However, one-third Members of Rajya Sabha retire after every second year. A member who is elected for a full term serves for a period of six years. The election held to fill a vacancy arising otherwise than by retirement of a member on the expiration of his term of office is called ‘Bye-election’. A member elected in a bye-election remains member for the remainder of the term of the member who had resigned or died or disqualified to be member of the House under the Tenth Schedule.
Presiding Officers - Chairman and Deputy Chairman: The Presiding Officers of Rajya Sabha have the responsibility to conduct the proceedings of the House. The Vice-President of India is ex-officio Chairman of Rajya Sabha. Rajya Sabha also chooses from amongst its members, a Deputy Chairman. There is also a Panel of Vice-Chairmen in Rajya Sabha, the members of which are nominated by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha. In the absence of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, a member from the Panel of Vice-Chairmen presides over the proceedings of the House.
Secretary-General: The Secretary-General is appointed by the Chairman of Rajya Sabha and holds rank equivalent to the highest civil servant of the Union. The Secretary-General works with anonymity and is readily available to the Presiding Officers for rendering advice on parliamentary matters. The Secretary-General is also the administrative head of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and the custodian of the records of the House& works under the direction and control of the Chairman, Rajya Sabha.
Rajya Sabha has played a constructive and effective role in our polity. Its performance in the legislative field and in influencing the Government policies has been quite significant. RS has, in fact, worked in a spirit of cooperation with Lok Sabha as per the Constitutional mandate. Rajya Sabha has prevented hasty legislation and has served as dignified chamber representing the federal principle. As a federal chamber, it has worked for the unity and integrity of the nation and has reinforced the faith of the people in parliamentary democracy.
Article 80 of the Constitution lays down the maximum strength of Rajya Sabha as 250, out of which 12 members are nominated by the President and 238 are representatives of the States and of the two Union Territories. The members nominated by the President are persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.
Allocation of Seats
The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides for allocation of seats to the States and Union Territories in Rajya Sabha. The allocation of seats is made on the basis of the population of each State. Consequent on the reorganization of States and formation of new States, the number of elected seats in the Rajya Sabha allotted to States and Union Territories has changed from time to time since 1952.
The Supreme Court in 2018 scrapped the use of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) option in the
Rajya Sabha elections. A Bench, led by the then Chief Justice of India held that the NOTA option is meant only for universal adult suffrage and direct elections and not polls held by the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote as done in the Rajya Sabha.
Special Powers of Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha being a federal chamber enjoys certain special powers under the Constitution. All the subjects/areas regarding legislation have been divided into three Lists - Union List, State List and concurrent List. Union and State Lists are mutually exclusive - one cannot legislate on a matter placed in the sphere of the other. However, if Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by a majority of not less than two-thirds of members present and voting saying that it is “necessary or expedient in the national interest” that Parliament should make a law on a matter enumerated in the State List, Parliament becomes empowered to make a law on the subject specified in the resolution, for the whole or any part of the territory of India. Such a resolution remains in force for a maximum period of one year but this period can be extended by one year at a time by passing a similar resolution further.