General Studies IIConstitution

Article 80 (Rajya Sabha)


Recently, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has approved a proposal to amend Article 80 of the Constitution so that its councilors could send a representative to the Rajya Sabha.

History of the Rajya Sabha:

  • Rationale behind the Upper House: The history of mankind tells us that it was the rich and powerful, who were involved in decision-making. Later on, when the ideas of democracy and universal adult suffrage took root, the poor started to get represented in the legislature. The upper house was constituted to balance the interest of these two groups. It was supposed to be the voice of the rich as compared to the lower house, which articulated the views of the poor.
  • Beginning in India: In India, bicameralism started in 1918-19 with the introduction of Montague-Chelmsford Reforms. It was further continued by the Government of India Act, 1935. When the Constitution of India was drafted, initially the upper house was called ‘Council of States’. Later on, the Hindi translation, i.e. Rajya Sabha was added to the Constitution as another nomenclature of the Upper house in August 1954.

About  Article 80

Article 80 of the Indian Constitution specifies the Composition of the Council of States. According to Article 80, the Council of States shall consist of:

  • Twelve members are to be nominated by the President. The members to be nominated by the President shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following, namely:- Literature, science, art and social service.
  • Not more than two hundred and thirty-eight representatives of the States and of the Union territories.
  • The allocation of seats in the Council of States to be filled by representatives of the States and of the Union territories shall be in accordance with the provisions in that behalf contained in the Fourth Schedule.
  • The representatives of each State in the Council of States shall be elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of the State in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.
  • The representatives of the Union territories in the Council of States shall be chosen in such manner as Parliament may by law prescribe.

Can Rajya Sabha get dissolved?

Rajya Sabha is a permanent body and also called a ‘continuing chamber.’ Unlike Lok Sabha which usually runs for 5 years and the fresh elections are taken up, Rajya Sabha has no specific tenure and it keeps on running. Therefore, it is never dissolved.


  • Every second year, one-third of its members retire. For the vacant seats, fresh elections take place. However, nominations are taken up at the beginning of the third year.
  • Representation of the People Act, 1951 authorizes the President to make provisions to govern the order of retirement of the members of the Rajya Sabha.

Composition of the Rajya Sabha:

  • The maximum strength of the Rajya Sabha is fixed at 250, out of which, 238 are to be the representatives of the states and union territories (elected indirectly) and 12 are nominated by the president.
  • The 4th Schedule of the Constitution deals with the allocation of seats in the Rajya Sabha to the states and union territories.

Representation of States

  • The representatives of states in the Rajya Sabha are elected by the elected members of state legislative assemblies.
  • The election 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 on the basis of population. Hence, the number of representatives varies from state to state. For example, Uttar Pradesh has 31 members while Tripura has 1 member only.
  • However, in the USA, all states are given equal representation in the Senate irrespective of their population. The USA has 50 states and the Senate has 100 members–2 from each state.

Representation of Union Territories

  • 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.
  • Out of the 9 Union Territories, only 3 (Delhi, Puducherry and Jammu & Kashmir) have representation in Rajya Sabha.
  • The populations of other 6 Union Territories are too small to have any representative in the Rajya Sabha.

Nominated Members

  • The president nominates 12 members to the Rajya Sabha from people who have special knowledge or practical experience in art, literature, science and social service.
  • The rationale behind this principle of nomination is to provide eminent persons a place in the Rajya Sabha without going through the process of election.

Who is Rajya Sabha Chairman & Deputy Chairman?

Indian Vice-President is an ex-officio chairman of Rajya Sabha, while the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha is one who is elected from amongst Rajya Sabha members. The details on Rajya Sabha Chairman and Deputy Chairman are given in the table below:

DetailsRajya Sabha ChairmanRajya Sabha Deputy Chairman
RoleHe presides the upper houseHe presides the upper house whenever given-below conditions arise: Seat of chairman falls vacant When Chairman/Vice-President has to act as President When Chairman is absent from the sitting
Note: In all three cases, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha has all the powers of Chairman of Rajya Sabha
RemovalHe can be removed as the chairman of Rajya Sabha only when he is removed from the seat of Vice-President of India
Note: While the resolution is moved, he can’t preside the house as chairman, though he can be a part of the house, speak in the house
He can be removed by a resolution passed by a majority of all the members of the Rajya Sabha
Note: The resolution to remove him can be moved only after giving 14 days’ advance notice
Is he a member of the house?NoYes
Can he vote in the house?He cannot vote in the first instance Note: He can vote in the case of an equality of votesWhen he presides as the chairman, he too cannot vote in the first instance but can exercise casting vote in case of a tie
Note: When Chairman is present in the house, Deputy Chairman is an ordinary member in the house and can speak, participate in proceedings and even vote in the questions of house
SalaryFixed by Parliament Note: His salary is charged on the Consolidated Fund of India. (Read more about funds of India in the linked article)
Note: When Chairman of the house has to act as President of India, he is not entitled to a salary of Chairman of Rajya Sabha but of President of India
Fixed by Parliament
Note: His salary is charged on Consolidated Fund 

Additional Powers of the Rajya Sabha:

  • Make laws in the State list: Constitution empowers the Rajya Sabha to allow the Parliament to make a law in the state list under Article 249. However, such a resolution needs to be approved by the Rajya Sabha by a two-thirds majority. The provision has been built in the Constitution to ensure that the Parliament is able to aid the legislative process in the States or to ensure uniformity in law across the territory of India, as per the situation.
  • Setup All India Services: All India Services work under the general supervision of the Central government. Therefore, as the protector of the States’ interests, it is the Rajya Sabha which is empowered to create an All-India Services under the Article 312 for the better governance of the country.
  • Extending Proclamation of Emergency: Rajya Sabha has the power to extend the proclamation of emergency under Article 352, if Lok Sabha has been dissolved or is not able to conduct a session due to some reasons. Since Rajya Sabha is a permanent house, not subject to dissolution, such a situation does not exist at the level of Rajya Sabha.

Arguments against the Upper House:

  • Limited power in some aspects: Money bills as defined by Article 110 cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha, but only in the Lok Sabha. In fact, Rajya Sabha has limited powers even in the case of deliberations related to Money Bills. It has only 14 days in which it can suggest amendments to the money bill, which may or may not be accepted by the Lok Sabha. Similarly, with regard to financial bills and budgetary matters, Rajya Sabha has a subordinate role as compared to the Lok Sabha.
  • Impediment to decision-making: Rajya Sabha, despite being a nominated house, acts as a check on the directly elected government. This has been criticised by experts and eminent men alike. They point out that Rajya Sabha has no business holding the government accountable when Lok Sabha is fully equipped to do so. In delaying the bills and questioning the government, it oversteps its authority as it is questioning the will of the people indirectly by questioning their representatives.
  • Cost to the exchequer: Many experts have pointed to the superfluous nature of the house as it has lesser power in most aspects as compared to the Lok Sabha. For e.g., it is subordinate to the Lok Sabha in financial matters as well as dismissing the government, in case it loses confidence in the house. Also, the deliberative role it plays is redundant as the same is done in the lower house. Therefore, it has been considered as a waste of resources by many experts.

Arguments in favour of the Upper House:

  • Guarding the Constitution: The Constitution of India provides for the mechanism of joint sitting under Article 108 for the resolution of disagreements between the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. However, for the Constitutional Amendment Bills, joint sitting cannot be called to decide on the dispute. This means that the Constitution makers have bestowed upon the Rajya Sabha the task of guarding the Constitution against any hasty amendments by Lok Sabha.
  • Promotes deliberation: Eminent members like Gopalaswami Ayyangar vehemently supported the idea of the upper house as another house to deliberate the bills and policies of the government. Rajya Sabha has made an immense contribution in correcting the directions of constitutional amendments, government legislations and articulated its views on matters of national importance
  • Oversight on hasty decision-making: At the same time, Rajya Sabha, despite being a weaker house, has tried to act as a check on the bills originating in the Lok Sabha. Lok Sabha, by its very nature, is a house with a brute majority of the ruling coalition. This would mean uninterrupted passage of the bills in the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha, with its varied composition, sobers the voices of majoritarianism, should they escape the notice of the lower house.
  • Cooling down the Politics: An important function of the Rajya Sabha is to take time and let any heated matters settle down. For instance, there may be various matters which catch the public fancy and are a matter of media frenzy. Any legislation at such time might be prone to errors due to swayed emotions. Therefore, sometimes it is beneficial to let the issue cool down and discuss all the dimensions of an issue so that the principle of natural justice is upheld in the legislations.
  • Highlighting the National Issues: Rajya Sabha has focussed more on the larger issues plaguing India, rather than the hot topics. One important factor contributing to this tendency is the permanent nature of the house. Since Rajya Sabha members do not have to worry about the general elections in the country and they have a fixed tenure of six years, therefore, the nature of debates is richer. For instance, even in the recent session, there have been debates on the reservation of women, the progress of India in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals etc.
  • Expert Opinion: Rajya Sabha has also an added benefit of nominated members in the house, wherein the President nominates twelve members of Rajya Sabha from eminent walks of life and having special knowledge or practical experience in art, literature, science and social service under Article 80 of the Constitution of India. This adds quality to the debate in the house and provides a lustre to the Upper House. For e.g. recently Jaya Bachchan provided the perspective of Bollywood members and argued for government support to the entertainment industry while being part of a discussion in the Upper House.
  • Protection of states’ interests: Rajya Sabha has the added responsibility of protecting the federal nature of the Constitution as is depicted from one of its names viz. Council of States. And it can be said that it has asserted its authority in this aspect multiple times. For e.g. Rajya Sabha has played an important role in passing bills that affect states’ interests like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, negotiations around the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Agreements around Agriculture subsidies (see inset) as Agriculture is primarily a State subject.
  • Smaller House: Rajya Sabha is a smaller house as compared to the Lok Sabha, with less than half the members of Lok Sabha. This leads to the allocation of a longer duration of time to the members of smaller parties to put forward their point of view. Therefore, it strengthens the democracy by providing a voice to the minority political parties of the house.
  • Private Members Bills: Rajya Sabha has also provided its members opportunities to introduce the private member bills, which despite being important could not come up on the agenda of the government. For e.g., the bill on transgender rights was initially introduced passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha in 2014.
  • Permanent House: Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution, it is a continuing chamber. However, Lok Sabha can be dissolved by the opposition by passing a motion of no-confidence or even by the cabinet by recommending the same to the President. Also, with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, any pending legislative business including the bills, also lapse. Therefore, if the government wants to introduce a bill with an intention of getting it passed beyond the term of the Lok Sabha, then such a bill can be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Continuity in Policy Making: As the house with no provision of dissolution, Rajya Sabha provides continuity to the legislative process in the country. This is important as being a democratic country, India frequently sees a change in the guard in the Lok Sabha. This is important to hold the government accountable to the people. However, this might also disrupt the policy-making of the Government as the new government might hold a different ideology. On such occasions, Rajya Sabha ensures that the new government honours the previous commitments and continues to uphold the general values of the Constitution.

Recent Reforms:

  • Use of Regional Languages: In keeping with upholding the diverse nature of the Indian society and culture, Rajya Sabha has taken a lead in allowing the members to express their sentiments in their local language as they are more comfortable and natural in using their mother tongue. This has also made the Rajya Sabha more inclusive and the members from different states more welcome in expressing their sentiments.
  • Enhancing Participation of members’: Apart from letting the members speak in the language they are comfortable in, Rajya Sabha has also tried to ensure the participation of the members from the smaller parties by allocating more time to them, which was earlier in proportion to their strength in the House. This ensures diversity in the deliberations and also ensures that the minority views are heard and given due importance in the Parliament.
  • Focus on the Rajya Sabha Committees: Earlier Chairman Mr. Hamid Ansari and the Current Chairman Mr. Venkaiah Naidu have been very proactive in ensuring that the Select and the Standing Committees constituted to deliberate the bills and policies of the government are functioning efficiently, For e.g. on many instances, the presiding officers of the house have expressed their anguish and openly read out the statistics on attendance and working of the committees to prompt the parties to take notice of the performance of their members in the Committees. Also, the House has ensured public display of the attendance of the members by putting the attendance online.
  • Holding the Government Accountable: Rajya Sabha has worked in the area of holding the government accountable for the development of the country. For instance, the question hour in the Rajya Sabha is an instrument of control over the executive. However, every day there are twenty questions listed to be answered by the government. To ensure that all of these questions are answered, Rajya Sabha has encouraged its members to ask pinpointed questions, which have exact answers. Also, the Committee on Assurances has also ensured that a minister is prepared to answer the questions and what government promises on the floor of the house gets implemented subsequently.

Recent news & Key proposals and objections to it-

  • Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, Manish Tewari, who is a resident of Chandigarh has introduced the Private Member bill.
  • In this bill the MP has sought the adding of a provision “provided that the ‘representative of the Union Territory of Chandigarh in the council of states shall be elected by an electoral college consisting of elected members of Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh constituted under the Punjab Municipal Corporation (Extension to Chandigarh) Act, 1994” in Article 80 of the Constitution in clause (5). 
  • He has also sought amendment of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution with Entry 32, Chandigarh.
  • However, as per the legal opinion submitted by the office of Senior Standing Counsel, Chandigarh, the elected Municipal Corporation Councillors do not form the electoral college for selecting a member for Upper house (Rajya Sabha) because it is beyond the powers of the Municipal Corporation. 
  • The office of the SSC also pointed out that between 1966 and 1990, MPs for Rajya Sabha in Delhi were selected by the members of the Metropolitan Council of Delhi.
  • He also suggested that selecting Rajya Sabha MP, is beyond the listed scope of functions of the municipal corporation. 
  • If the functions of the civic body are to be extended beyond the listed scope of functions it would not be feasible and would go against the constitutional mandate of any such Municipal Corporation.
  • As the civic body gave its assent to the amendment, UT Administration will send it to the Ministry of Home Affairs for further consideration. 
  • It will then be forwarded to the Parliament. 
  • In case, the Parliament accepts the amendment, 35 elected MC councillors will have a right to elect a person among them to the Rajya Sabha.

Mains Questions

  • Why do you think the committees are considered to be useful for parliamentary work?  Discuss, in this context, the role or the Estimates Committee.                                                                                                   (GS2 – 2018)

  • The Indian Constitution has provisions for holding joint session of the two houses of the Parliament. Enumerate the occasions when this would normally happen and also the occasions when it cannot, with reasons thereof.   (GS2 – 2017)

  • The ‘Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and its Members’ as envisaged in Article 105 of the Constitution leave room for a large number of un-codified and un-enumerated privileges to continue. Assess the reasons for the absence of legal codification of the ‘parliamentary privileges’. How can this problem be addressed?                (GS2 – 2014)

Practice Question:

  • Highlight the importance of Rajya Sabha in upholding the federal tradition of the country, apart from bringing diversity in the deliberations of the Parliament. Do you think that all the states should be provided the Upper house as a part of the legislature?

News Source: Indian Express

Article Info Source: M. Laxmikant

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