“Functioning within the parameters of the Constitution to carry out its mandate to legislate and deliberate, the Council of States has engaged itself incessantly to translate into action the lofty vision of the founding fathers of the Republic.”
~ Dr. S Radhakrishnan, Chairman of the first Rajya Sabha session, talked about the Upper House on 13May 1952.
13 May 1952, is remembered with pride and joy as the newly constituted “Council of States” sat together for the first time. This “Second Chamber” of the Parliament of India, was later named as the Rajya Sabha, on 23August 1954. Since, India’s independence in 1947, the government had a vision of creating a democratic infrastructure that would represent people from all walks of life and all ages. Creation of a Second Chamber, was also in sync with the ideals of bicameralism. Today, the Rajya Sabha is an important part of the Indian Parliament, that provides the necessary deliberations on important matters of the nation, with the Lok Sabha.
Origin of the Rajya Sabha
The concept of the Rajya Sabha can be seen as early as 1919, when the Montague-Chelmsford Report was brought forth. It recommended its formation, similar to that of other democratic countries of the time. The responsibilities of the Second Chamber were although marginalised, and “did not reflect any federal features in the true sense.” One of the major stand-offs of the Chamber, was the fact that women were neither allowed to vote for the candidates nor stand as one. The Second Chamber was also considered as a British “Government” Chamber, holding only colonial interests. Despite protests from the Indian faction, the Council of States, in the restricted form, continued to operate until the country got rid of the foreign rule in 1947.
The newly independent India, with its idealistic views, imagined a bicameral legislature that would uphold the democratic traditions. In this regard, the “Union Constitution Committee”, under Jawaharlal Nehru as Chairman was formed, and the report in 1936 mentioned, that the Second Chamber or ‘Upper House’ would be “reactionary” and its responsibility would be to “check any forward tendencies in the Lower House.” Prominent freedom fighter and political personality, M A Ayyangar further explained, that the Upper House would provide opportunities for different people to participate in politics, and “whatever hasty legislation is passed by the Lower House, would be checked by the slow movement of the Upper House.”
Initially named as the “Council of States”, this legislative unit was given the “historic responsibility of unifying the nation,” by “representing the States and Union territories and voicing their interests.”
The First Rajya Sabha
According to the official website of Rajya Sabha, the first time Council of States was constituted was on 3 April 1952. It had 216 members, of which one was a nominated woman member – Rukmini Devi Arundale. The first Chairman was Dr. S Radhakrishnan, also the first Vice President of the nation. The Deputy Chairman was S V Krishnamoorthy Rao, and the Leader of the House was N Gopalaswami Ayyangar.
The first sitting of the Council of States on 13May 1952, was begun by the President’s address for both the Upper and Lower House. This tradition still continues every year, and after every general election. The difference was that the address was neither followed by a “Motion of Thanks,” nor had a “Question Hour” session, which nowadays happens regularly.
In addition, the Rajya Sabha decided to meet for four sessions in a year – twice during Budget Session (between February and March, and then between April and May), Monsoon Session (between July and August), and again during the Winter Session (between November and December). After 1994, the number of sessions was considered as three, as the two Budget Sessions were clubbed into one.
With time, rules and regulations of the Rajya Sabha were reformulated and designed to address matters of the modern society.
Important Facts about Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha is considered as the Upper House. Whereas, the Lower House or the Lok Sabha can be dissolved in certain cases, the Rajya Sabha is a permanent wing of the Parliament and cannot be “subject to dissolution.” According to the Constitution of India, there can be a maximum of 250 members in the Rajya Sabha, of which 12 are nominated by the President from different professions and sections of society. The others are elected by the members of the legislative assemblies of the States and Union territories, who are elected by the people. The Rajya Sabha members have a six-year term, but one-third of the members must retire every two years. The members are above 30 years of age, and are the representatives of the population of each state.
Also on this day:
1905 – Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the fifth President of India, was born
1956 – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Indian spiritual leader who founded the Art of Living Foundation, was born
1967 – Dr. Zakir Hussain, became the third President of India
1998 – The Pokhran II nuclear tests, took place
2001 – R K Narayan, Indian author, died
Official website of Rajya Sabha