The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament of India. Membership of Rajya Sabha is limited by the Constitution to a maximum of 250 members, and current laws have provision for 245 members. Most of the members of the House are indirectly elected by state and territorial legislatures using single transferable votes, while the President can appoint 12 members for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services. Members sit for staggered six-year terms, with one third of the members retiring every two years.
The Rajya Sabha meets in continuous sessions, and unlike the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, is not subject to dissolution. However, the Rajya Sabha, like the Lok Sabha can be prorogued by the President. The Rajya Sabha has equal footing in all areas of legislation with Lok Sabha, except in the area of supply, where the Lok Sabha has overriding powers. In the case of conflicting legislation, a joint sitting of the two houses can be held. However, since the Lok Sabha has twice as many members as the Rajya Sabha, the former would normally hold the greater power. Joint sittings of the Houses of Parliament of India are rare, and in the history of the Republic, only three such joint-sessions have been held; the latest one for the passage of the 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The Vice-President of India (currently, Hamid Ansari) is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who presides over its sessions. The Deputy Chairman, who is elected from amongst the house’s members, takes care of the day-to-day matters of the house in the absence of the Chairman. The Rajya Sabha held its first sitting on 13 May 1952. The salary and other benefits for a member of Rajya Sabha are same as for a member of Lok Sabha.
Rajya Sabha members are elected by state legislatures rather than directly through the electorate by single transferable vote method.
Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Independent
Since 11 August 2007
P. J. Kurien, INC
Since 21 August 2012
Leader of the House
Arun Jaitley, BJP
Since 2 June 2014
Leader of the Opposition
Ghulam Nabi Azad, INC
Since 8 June 2014
2 Vacant (2 Elected Seats)
Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for membership of Parliament. A member of the Rajya Sabha must:
- Must be a citizen of India
- Must make and subscribe before some person authorized in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution;
- Must be at least 30 years old.
- Must be elected by the Legislative Assembly of States and Union territories by means of Single transferable vote through Proportional representation.
- Must have their name present on the voters’ list.
- Cannot be a proclaimed criminal.
- Cannot be an insolvent, i.e. he/she should not be in debt that he/she is not capable of repaying in a current manner and should have the ability to meet his/her financial expenses.
- Should not hold any other office of profit under the Government of India.
- Should not be of unsound mind.
- Must possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
In addition, twelve members are nominated by the President of India having special knowledge in various areas like arts and science. However, they are not entitled to vote in Presidential elections as per Article 55 of the Constitution.
The Constitution of India places some restrictions on Rajya Sabha which makes Lok Sabha more powerful in certain areas in comparison.
Money bills, as defined in the Constitution of India Act 110, can only be introduced in Lok Sabha. When Lok Sabha passes a money bill, and transmits it to Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha has only fourteen days to return the bill (with or without amendments) to Lok Sabha. If Rajya Sabha fails to return the bill in fourteen days, that bill is deemed to have passed by both the Houses. Also, if Lok Sabha rejects any (or all) of the amendments proposed by Rajya Sabha, the bill is deemed to have been passed by both Houses of Parliament in the form Lok Sabha finally passes it. Hence, Rajya Sabha cannot stall, or amend, a money bill without Lok Sabha’s concurrence on the same.
Joint Sitting of the Parliament
Article 108 provides for a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament in certain cases. A joint sitting can be convened by the President of India when one house has either rejected a bill passed by the other house, has not taken any action on a bill transmitted to it by the other house for six months, or has disagreed to the amendments proposed by the Lok Sabha on a bill passed by it. Considering that the numerical strength of Lok Sabha is more than twice that of Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha tends to have a greater influence in a joint sitting of Parliament. A joint session is chaired by the Speaker of Lok Sabha. Also, because the joint session is convened by the President on advice of the government, which already has a majority in Lok Sabha, the joint session is usually convened to get bills passed through a Rajya Sabha in which the government has a minority.
Joint sessions of Parliament are a rarity, and have been convened three times in last 69 years, for the purpose of passage of a specific legislative act, the latest time being in 2002:
- 1961: Dowry Prohibition Act, 1958
- 1978: Banking Services Commission (Repeal) Act, 1977
- 2002: Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002
Unlike the Lok Sabha, a member of the Rajya Sabha cannot bring to the house a motion of no confidence against the government.
In Indian federal structure, Rajya Sabha is a representative of the States in the Union legislature (Hence the name, Council of States). Hence, Rajya Sabha is granted powers that protect the rights of States against the Union.
The Constitution empowers Parliament of India to make laws on the matters reserved for States (States List). However, this can only be done if Rajya Sabha first passes a resolution by two-thirds special majority granting such a power to the Union Parliament. The union government cannot make a law on a matter reserved for states without any authorisation from Rajya Sabha.
Creation of All-India Services
Rajya Sabha, by a two-thirds super majority can pass a resolution empowering the Government of India to create more All-India Services common to both Union and States, including a judicial service.
Membership and composition
Seats are allotted in proportion to the population of people of each state or union territory in such a manner that smaller states have slight advantage over more populous states. In addition, smaller Union Territories, which are not States and which do not have legislatures, do not have representation in Rajya Sabha. Hence, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli do not send any representatives to Rajya Sabha. 12 members are nominated by the President.
As per the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution of India on 26 January 1950, the Rajya Sabha was to consist of 216 members of which 12 members were to be nominated by the President and the remaining 204 elected to represent the States.The present strength, however, is 245 members of whom 233 are representatives of the states and union territories and 12 are nominated by the President.The twelve nominated members of the Rajya Sabha are persons who are eminent in particular fields, and are well known contributors in the particular field. A few examples of such nominated persons are cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar, former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan and famous lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar. As of March 2014, each state or union territory specified in the first column of the following table, there shall be allotted the number of seats specified in the second column thereof opposite to that State or that union territory, as the case may be:
|Name of state and union territory||No. of Seats|
|Jammu & Kashmir||4|
|National Capital Territory (Delhi)||3|
Membership by party
Rajya Sabha Secretariat (As of 24 April 2017)
|National Democratic Alliance
|Bharatiya Janata Party||56|
|Telugu Desam Party||6|
|Shiromani Akali Dal||3|
|Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party||2|
|Bodoland People’s Front||1|
|Naga People’s Front||1|
|Republican Party of India (A)||1|
|Sikkim Democratic Front||1|
|United Progressive Alliance
|Indian National Congress||59|
|Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam||4|
|Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)||1|
|Kerala Congress (M)||1|
|Janata Dal (United)||10|
|Rashtriya Janata Dal||3|
|Indian National Lok Dal||1|
|Janata Dal (Secular)||1|
|All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam||13|
|All India Trinamool Congress||12|
|Communist Party of India (Marxist)||8|
|Biju Janata Dal||7|
|Bahujan Samaj Party||6|
|Nationalist Congress Party||5|
|Telangana Rashtra Samithi||3|
|Communist Party of India||1|
|Jharkhand Mukti Morcha||1|
|YSR Congress Party||1|
Leader of the House
Besides the Chairman (Vice-President of India) and the Deputy Chairman, there is also a function called Leader of the House. This is a cabinet minister – the prime minister if he is a member of the House, or another nominated minister. The Leader has a seat next to the Chairman, in the front row.
Leader of the Opposition (LOP)
Besides the Leader of the House, who is leading the majority, there is also a Leader of the Opposition – leading the minority parties. The function was only recognized in the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament Act 1977. This is commonly the leader of the largest minority party, and is recognized as such by the Chairman.
The following people have been the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha:
|1||Shyam Nandan Mishra||December 1969||March 1971|
|2||M. S. Gurupadaswamy||March 1971||April 1972|
|4||Bhola Paswan Shastri||24.2.1978||23.3.1978|
|7||Lal Krishna Advani||21.1.1980||7.4.1980|
|8||P. Shiv Shankar||18.12.1989||2.1.1991|
|9||M. S. Gurupadaswamy||28.6.1991||21.7.1991|
|15||Dr. Manmohan Singh||21.3.1998||21.5.2004|
|19||Ghulam Nabi Azad||8.6.2014||Present|
The Secretariat of Rajya Sabha was set up pursuant to the provisions contained in Article 98 of the Constitution. The said Article, which provides for a separate secretarial staff for each House of Parliament, reads as follows:- 98. Secretariat of Parliament – Each House of Parliament shall have a separate secretarial staff: Provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as preventing the creation of posts common to both Houses of Parliament. (2) Parliament may by law regulate the recruitment and the conditions of service of persons appointed to the secretarial staff of either House of Parliament.
The Rajya Sabha Secretariat functions under the overall guidance and control of the Chairman. The main activities of the Secretariat inter alia include the following :
(i) providing secretarial assistance and support to the effective functioning of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) possible to Members of Rajya Sabha; (iv) servicing the various Parliamentary Committees; (v) preparing research and reference material and bringing out various publications; (vi) recruitment of manpower in the Sabha Secretariat and attending to personnel matters; and (vii) preparing and publishing a record of the day-to-day proceedings of the Rajya Sabha and bringing out such other publications, as may be required concerning the functioning of the Rajya Sabha and its Committees. In the discharge of his constitutional and statutory responsibilities, the Chairman, Rajya Sabha is assisted by the Secretary-General, who holds the rank equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary to the Government of India. The Secretary-General, in turn, is assisted by senior functionaries at the level of Secretary, Additional Secretary, Joint Secretary and other officers and staff of the Secretariat.
Rajya Sabha Television (RSTV) is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week parliamentary TV channel fully owned and operated by the Rajya Sabha. The channel is aimed at providing in-depth coverage and analysis of parliamentary affairs especially the functioning of and developments related to Rajya Sabha. During sessions of Parliament, apart from telecasting live coverage of the proceedings of Rajya Sabha, RSTV presents incisive analysis of the proceedings of the House as well as other day-to-day parliamentary events and developments.