Rajya Sabha: Composition, System of Elections & More

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Rajya Sabha
Rajya Sabha

The Rajya Sabha is a vital pillar in India’s bicameral parliamentary system. As the House which represents the States and Union Territories, it plays a crucial role in the legislative process, providing a platform for regional interests and ensuring federal balance. This article aims to study in detail the Rajya Sabha, its composition, structure, system of elections of its members, and other related aspects.

  • The Rajya Sabha is the Upper House of India’s bicameral Parliament.
  • Literally meaning the “Council of the States“, the Rajya Sabha has been envisaged as the House that represents the interests of the various States and Union Territories of the Union of India.
  • In the Indian Constitutional framework, it has been assigned a crucial role in the legislative process, serving as a deliberative body that provides a platform for the States to voice their concerns and perspectives and ensures that the diverse interests and concerns of the different states of the country are reflected in the parliamentary proceedings.
About Parliament of India 

– The Parliament of India is the legislative organ of the Union Government
– As per the Constitutional framework, the Parliament of India consists of three parts:
A. The President of India
B. The Council of States or the Rajya Sabha – It is the Upper House or the First Chamber or the House of Elders and represents the States and UTs of the Union of India. 
C. The House of the People or the Lok Sabha – It is the Lower House or the Second Chamber or the Popular House and represents the People of India as a whole.

Read our detailed article on the Rajya Sabha and the Parliament of India.
  • The Constitution of India has fixed the maximum strength of the Rajya Sabha at 250 members, of which
    • 238 members are to be representatives of the States and Union Territories (UTs), and
    • 12 members are to be nominated by the President of India.
  • At present, the Rajya Sabha comprises 245 members, of which:
    • 225 members are representatives of the States,
    • 8 members are representatives of the Union Territories (UTs), and
    • 12 members are nominated by the President of India.
  • The representatives of States in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the elected members of State Legislative Assemblies.
  • The election in the Rajya Sabha is held in accordance with the System of Proportional Representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote.
  • The seats are allotted to the States in the Rajya Sabha based on the population of that particular State.
    • Hence, the number of representatives varies from State to State.
Note: The Fourth Schedule of the Indian Constitution deals with the allocation of seats in the Rajya Sabha to the States and Union Territories (UTs).
Note: In the USA, all the states are given equal representation in the Senate (the upper house of the US Congress).
  • The representatives of each Union Territory in the Rajya Sabha are indirectly elected by members of an Electoral College specially constituted for the purpose.
  • This election is also held in accordance with the System of Proportional Representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote.
Note: Out of the eight Union Territories (UTs), only Delhi, Puducherry, and Jammu & Kashmir have representation in the Rajya Sabha. The populations of the other five Union Territories are too small to have any representative in the Rajya Sabha.
  • The President of India nominates 12 members to the Rajya Sabha from people who have special knowledge or practical experience in the field of:
    • art,
    • literature,
    • science, and
    • social service.
  • The rationale behind this principle of nomination of members to the Rajya Sabha is to provide eminent persons with a place in the House without going through the process of elections.
Note: The American Senate has no nominated members.
  • The Rajya Sabha is a continuing chamber, which means that it is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution.
  • The Indian Constitution has not fixed the term of office of members of the Rajya Sabha and left it to the Indian Parliament.
  • Accordingly, the Parliament enacted the Representation of the People Act (1951) which:
    • Provides that the term of office of a member of the Rajya Sabha shall be six years, and
    • Authorizes the President of India to make provisions to govern the order of retirement of the members of the Rajya Sabha.
      • Under this provision, the President has made the Rajya Sabha (Term of Office of Members) Order, 1952.
  • As per the current plan, one-third of the members of the Rajya Sabha retire every second year.
    • Their seats are filled up by the fresh elections and Presidential nominations at the beginning of every third year.
    • The retiring members of the Rajya Sabha are eligible for re-election and renomination any number of times.
Note: From the above, it is to be noted that, unlike the Lok Sabha which can be dissolved, the Rajya Sabha cannot be dissolved and hence it is a continuing chamber.

The key aspects related to the system of elections to the Rajya Sabha include:

  • Indirect Election,
  • System of Proportional Representation, and
  • Method of Single Transferable Vote (STV).

Each aspect has been discussed in detail in the sections that follow.

Unlike the direct election of the members of the Lok Sabha, the members of the Rajya Sabha are elected indirectly.

  • The Rajya Sabha members from the States are elected by the elected members of State Legislative Assemblies.
  • The Rajya Sabha members from the Union Territories (UTs) are elected by members of an Electoral College specially constituted for the purpose.
  • The election of the members of the Rajya Sabha follows a proportional representation system.
  • It means that the number of seats won by a party is proportional to the number of votes received by it.
  • This system of elections to the Rajya Sabha ensures that even the minority views are represented in the House.
  • The election of the members of the Rajya Sabha is held by means of Single Transferable Vote (STV).
  • In this system, voters (elected MLAs in the case of the state or the members of the electoral college in the case of the UT) rank candidates in order of preference.
  • In order to get elected, a candidate must secure a certain quota of votes, which is calculated as follows:

Quota =[Total Votes/(Total Number of Seats+1) +1].

  • If a candidate achieves the quota, he/she is elected. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and their votes are transferred to the voters’ next preferences. This process continues until all seats are filled.

The Indian Constitution provides for various qualifications for the Members of the Rajya Sabha. Apart from them, the Parliament has also prescribed some qualifications for members of the Rajya Sabha under the Representation of People’s Act of 1951. These constitutional as well as statutory qualifications have been discussed as follows.

The Indian Constitution lays down the following qualifications for a person to be chosen as a Member of the Rajya Sabha:

  • He/she must be a citizen of India.
  • He/she must make and subscribe to an oath or affirmation before the person authorised by the Election Commission of India (ECI) for this purpose.
  • He/she must not be less than 30 years of age.
  • He/she must possess other qualifications prescribed by Parliament.

The Parliament has laid down the following additional qualifications for the Member of Rajya Sabha in the Representation of People Act of 1951:

  • A candidate contesting an election to the Rajya Sabha must be registered as an elector for a parliamentary constituency.
    • It is to be noted that the candidate can be registered as an elector for a parliamentary constituency in any state of the country, and not necessarily in the state from where he/she is contesting the election.
Note: The original Constitution required that a candidate contesting an election to the Rajya Sabha from a particular state should be an elector in that particular state. However, this requirement was dispensed with in 2003.
  • He/she must be a member of a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe in any State or Union Territory if he/she wants to contest a seat reserved for them.
    • However, a Member of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes can also contest elections from a non-reserved seat.

The Indian Constitution provides for various disqualifications for the Members of the Rajya Sabha. Apart from them, the Indian Parliament has also prescribed some disqualifications for members of the Rajya Sabha under the Representation of People’s Act of 1951. These constitutional as well as statutory disqualifications have been discussed as follows:

As per the Indian Constitution, a person shall be disqualified from being elected as a Member of Rajya Sabha:

  • if he/she holds any office of profit under the Union or State Government (except that of a Minister or any other office exempted by Parliament).
  • if he/she is of unsound mind and stands so declared by a court.
  • if he/she is an undischarged insolvent.
  • if he/she is not a citizen of India or has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign state or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign state.
  • if he/she is so disqualified under any law made by Parliament.

The Indian Parliament has laid down the following additional disqualifications for the Members of Rajya Sabha in the Representation of People Act (1951).

  • He/she must not have been found guilty of certain electoral offences or corrupt practices in the elections.
  • He/she must not have been convicted for any offence resulting in imprisonment for two or more years.
    • But, the detention of a person under a preventive detention law is not a disqualification.
  • He/she must not have failed to lodge an account of his/her election expenses within the time.
  • He/she must not have any interest in government contracts, works or services.
  • He/she must not be a Director or Managing agent nor hold an office of profit in a corporation in which the government has a share of at least 25 per cent.
  • He/she must not have been dismissed from government service for corruption or disloyalty to the State.
  • He/she must not have been convicted for promoting enmity between different groups or for the offence of bribery.
  • He/she must not have been punished for preaching and practising social crimes such as untouchability, dowry and sati.
Note: The decision of the President is final on the question of whether a member is subject to any of the above disqualifications. However, the President should obtain the opinion of the Election Commission of India and act accordingly. 
  • Apart from the above disqualifications, the Indian Constitution also lays down that a person shall be disqualified from being a Member of the Rajya Sabha if he/she is so disqualified on the grounds of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule.
  • A member incurs disqualification under the Anti-Defection law:
    • if he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of the political party on whose ticket he/she is elected to the House,
    • if he/she votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction given by his/her political party,
    • if any independently elected member joins any political party,
    • if any nominated member joins any political party after the expiry of six months.
Note: 
– The question of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule is decided by:
a. The Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha and 
b. The Speaker in the case of Lok Sabha.
– Thus, it is to be noted that the question of disqualification under the Tenth Schedule is not by the President of India.
– In the Kihoto Hollohan case (1992), the Supreme Court of India ruled that the decision of the Chairman/Speaker in this regard is subject to Judicial Review.
  • Each Member of the Rajya Sabha has to make and subscribe to an Oath or Affirmation before the President or some person appointed by him/her for this purpose.
  • In his/her Oath or Affirmation, a Member of Rajya Sabha swears:
    • to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India,
    • to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India,
    • to faithfully discharge the duty upon which he/she is about to enter.
  • A Member of Rajya Sabha cannot vote and participate in the proceedings of the House and does not become eligible for parliamentary privileges and immunities unless he/she takes the oath.
  • A person is liable to a penalty of Rs. 500 for each day he/she sits or votes as a Member in a House in the following conditions:
    • Before taking and subscribing to the prescribed Oath or Affirmation,
    • When he/she knows that he/she is not qualified or that he/she is disqualified for membership in Rajya Sabha,
    • When he/she knows that he/she is prohibited from sitting or voting in the House by virtue of any parliamentary law.
  • The Members of the Rajya Sabha are entitled to receive such salaries and allowances as may be determined by the Parliament of India.
  • There is no provision of pension for the Members of Rajya Sabha in the Indian Constitution.
    • However, in 1976, the Indian Parliament provided the provision of pension to the Members of the Rajya Sabha.
  • Moreover, the Members of Rajya Sabha are also provided with travelling facilities, free accommodation, telephone, vehicle advance, medical facilities and so on.

A Member of the Rajya Sabha vacates his/her seat in the following cases:

  • Double Membership,
  • Disqualification,
  • Resignation,
  • Absence, and
  • Other Cases
  • A person cannot be a member of both Houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) at the same time. Thus, the Representation of People Act of 1951 provides for the following:
    • If a person is elected to both the Houses of Parliament, he/she must intimate within 10 days in which House he/she desires to serve.
      • In default of such intimation, his/her seat in the Rajya Sabha becomes vacant.
    • If a sitting member of one House is also elected to the other House, his/her seat in the first House becomes vacant.
    • If a person is elected to two seats in a House, he/she should exercise his/her option for one. Otherwise, both seats become vacant.
  • Similarly, a person cannot be a Member of both the Parliament and the State Legislature at the same time.
    • If a person is so elected, his/her seat in Parliament becomes vacant if he/she does not resign his/her seat in the State Legislature within 14 days.
  • The seat of the Member of Rajya Sabha becomes vacant if he/she is subjected to any of the disqualifications specified in the Indian Constitution.
  • This includes the disqualification on the grounds of defection under the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
  • A Member of the Rajya Sabha may resign his/her seat by writing to the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • The seat of the House falls vacant once the resignation is accepted by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Vice President of India.
    • However, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha may not accept the resignation of the concerned Member of Rajya Sabha if he/she is satisfied that it is not voluntary or genuine.
  • The Rajya Sabha can declare the seat of a Member vacant if he/she is absent from all its meetings for a period of sixty days without its permission.
  • In computing the period of sixty days, no account shall be taken of any period during which the Rajya Sabha is prorogued or adjourned for more than four consecutive days.
  • A Member of Rajya Sabha has to vacate his/her seat in the Parliament if:
    • his/her election is declared void by the court,
    • he/she is expelled by the House,
    • he/she is elected to the office of President or Vice-President of India,
    • he/she is appointed to the office of Governor of a State.
Note: The Indian Constitution lays down no procedure to declare the election void if a disqualified person is elected to the Indian Parliament. This matter is dealt with by the Representation of the People Act of 1951, which enables the High Court to declare an election void if a disqualified candidate is elected to the Indian Parliament. The aggrieved party can appeal to the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court in this regard. 

The Rajya Sabha, or the Council of States, is a crucial pillar of India’s parliamentary system. Representing the interests of the various States and Union Territories, the Rajya Sabha plays a pivotal role in the legislative process, providing a platform for the articulation of regional concerns and perspectives. Through its legislative, deliberative, and advisory functions, the Rajya Sabha ensures a balance of power, facilitates thorough debate on policy issues, and contributes to the stability and continuity of India’s federal structure.

What do you mean by Rajya Sabha?

The Rajya Sabha, also known as the Council of States, is the upper house of the Parliament of India. It represents the states and union territories and is not subject to dissolution, providing continuity in the legislative process.

What is the difference between Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha?

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are the two houses of the Indian Parliament, each with distinct roles. The Lok Sabha, or House of the People, is composed of members directly elected by citizens, with a maximum strength of 552 members, and serves a five-year term. The Speaker is the head of the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha, or Council of States, represents the states and Union Territories, with members indirectly elected by state legislatures and a maximum strength of 250 members. The Vice President of India serves as the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

How Rajya Sabha members are elected?

The members of Rajya Sabha are not directly elected by the people but by the elected members of State Legislative Assemblies, and a few are nominated by the President of India.

How many total seats in Rajya Sabha?

The total seats in Rajya Sabha are 250.

Who is Chairman of Rajya Sabha?

The Vice President of India serves as the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

What are powers of Rajya Sabha?

The powers of Rajya Sabha are that it can introduce and pass bills, except for money bills, review and suggest amendments to bills, approve resolutions to create new All-India Services, legislate on state matters, discuss and influence national policies, thus ensuring federal representation and balance.

How many total members of Rajya Sabha?

The total members of Rajya Sabha are 245.

What is the role of Rajya Sabha?

The Rajya Sabha reviews and amends legislation, and provides checks and balances to the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha also has special powers, such as creating All-India Services and authorizing Parliament to legislate on state matters under certain conditions. Its primary functions include law-making, safeguarding state interests, and contributing to policy discussions.

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