THE RAJYA SABHA THE COUNCIL OF THE STATES OF INDIA
The particular scope of activities of the Rajya Sabha is to preserve the interests of the constituent parts of the Indian Union whilst respecting national interest.
I - COMPOSITION
245 members consisting of:
- 233 elected by the legislative assemblies of the States and territories of the Union;
- 12 key figures appointed by the Head of State on the basis of their eminence in the fields of literature, art, science and social issues.
The Vice-President of the Indian Union is, by rights, president of the Rajya Sabha. He is elected by a college composed of members of the two assemblies of Parliament.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
The number of seats in the Rajya Sabha to which the States and territories of the Indian Union have a right is calculated according to a system proportional to their population.
Method of voting:
- indirect majority election in which only one candidate is returned in each constituency, with single transferable vote.
Term of office: 6 years, renewable by a third every 2 years.
Most recent election: 11 November 2002.
Age of eligibility: 30.
Compatibility between the office of senator and service as member of the Government (according to the Indian Constitution, no one may be a member of the Government unless he is at the same time a member of one of the two parliamentary assemblies).
III - ORGANISATION OF SESSIONS
3 sessions per year :
1) budget session (February - May),
2) monsoon session (July - August),
3) winter session (November - December).
The chamber sits for 80 - 90 days per year on average.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
A - LEGISLATIVE POWERS
Bicameral system where the chambers have equal powers, except in budgetary matters.
1) Right to propose legislation
Yes, in conjunction with the deputies and the Government
2) Right of amendment
Yes, except in matters of the financial act in which it may only make recommendations to the Chamber of deputies.
3) Legislative procedure
a) Ordinary procedure:
The text of every law is examined by both chambers.
Bills may be tabled before either chamber indiscriminately, once they have first been accepted by the said chamber (first reading).
The second reading of the bill has two stages:
- the first consists of a general discussion. The bill can then be submitted to a committee of the chamber which is discussing it or to a joint committee combining members from both assemblies or circulated to gather reactions or taken into consideration immediately.
The committee examines the text article by article as in a plenary assembly; it may amend it, gather opinions from bodies concerned by the text or experts. At the end of this examination, the bill is returned to the plenary assembly which examines the committee's text.
- the second stage consists of examination of the text article par article by the assembly.
At the proposal of the spokesman, the bill can be passed.
The debate - at this stage - is limited to arguments for or against the bill.
Only formal, verbal and significant amendments are admissible.
For ordinary bills, a simple majority of voters is sufficient for them to be passed. On the other hand, the majority required for constitutional bills is the majority of the members composing the assembly plus a minimum majority of two thirds of voters.
After a bill is passed by one chamber, it is sent to the other chamber where it is examined according to the same procedure as in the first assembly to which it is referred (except for the first reading).
Joint debate by both chambers:
If a bill passed by one chamber is rejected by the other or if the assemblies finally reject the amended text or if a period of over six months has passed since the text was passed on to the other assembly and has not been examined by it, the President of the Union may convene both assemblies in a joint meeting to resolve the conflict.
In this case, if the majority of voters of both chambers pass the text possibly with amendments, it is considered as passed by both assemblies.
This procedure cannot be applied to a constitutional bill.
b) Budgetary procedure:
Finance act bills, initially examined by the Lok Sabha, are passed on to the Rajya Sabha, which must return them within 14 days of their transmission, possibly together with recommendations for amendment.
Following a further examination by the Lok Sabha, the bill is considered as passed by both chambers:
- in the text amended according to the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha or some of them, depending on whether the lower chamber has accepted them in total or some of them;
- in the text passed by the Lok Sabha, if it has rejected all the recommendations of the Rajya Sabha; the same goes if the Rajya Sabha has not given a ruling within 14 days.
B - SUPERVISORY POWERS
1) Right to set up commissions of inquiry.
2) Resolutions, questions, debates and motions of adjournment.
V - SPECIAL MEASURES
Debates are conducted in English and in Hindi.