November 18, 2019
Sukhendu Sekhar Ray speaks during a special discussion on the role of Rajya Sabha
Thank you Sir. On the occasion of the 250th Session of the Rajya Sabha, I, on behalf of All India Trinamool Congress, extend warmest greetings to the Hon’ble Chairman, to the Hon’ble leader of the House, the Hon’ble Leader of the Opposition, all other distinguished and Hon’ble members, members of the secretariats, staff of Rajya Sabha and all other concerned.
Sir, I wish the discussion could have been for a longer time than the time allotted today, because it is a very crucial subject, a very crucial issue because the issue is about the role of Rajya Sabha in Indian polity and the need for reforms.
Sir, if I look at the history for a moment I will find that Government of India in 1919 passed Montague-Chelmsford Reforms, introducing bicameral form of legislation. Thereafter, the Government of India Act of 1935 laid the foundation of India’s federal structure, establishing a bicameral legislature consisting of the Council of States and the Federal Assembly.
After independence, in Article 79 of the Constitution of India, it was stipulated and I quote “there shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and House of the People”. And Article 80 has provided for the formation of the Rajya Sabha, how it will be formed etc.
Now Sir, what did Dr BR Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Draft Committee of the Constitution, say on the role of Rajya Sabha? I will quote only two-three lines. “The government at the Centre and States are coequen in the sense that they derive their legitimacy and authority from a common source, i.e., the Constitution itself. The Upper House in Parliament fashioned as the Council of States can be understood as an institutional arrangement through which constituent units become part of decision making process at the central level itself.”
So, how the Council of States is important in our constitutional framework, has elaborately been explained by Dr Ambedkar and other honourable members. Differences in power between the two Houses has already been mentioned by the Hon’ble Chairman. In the matter of no-confidence motion and money bills, the Rajya Sabha does not enjoy the same power as Lok Sabha enjoys. Of late, the tendency of giving rise to the money bills; one of our distinguished members, Jairam Ramesh, had to run to the Apex Court to challenge some of the decisions, whether these are money bills or not. The situation has already arisen where we are not satisfied that some bills are framed in a manner as money bills.
Sir, I strongly feel that Rajya sabha has a pivotal role in upholding our constitutional goals and to fulfill the aspirations of the people living in different States of the country. Sir, some pundits prescribe for the abolition of Rajya Sabha. In number of occasions private bills are introduced and discussed for abolition of Rajya Sabha. Sir, it is heartening to know that the hon’ble Prime Minister, hon’ble Chairman, hon’ble former Prime Minister – all of them are advocating the role of Rajya Sabha should be protected by all means.
Some people say there are instances of obstructionism in the Rajya Sabha. No doubt about it. Obstructionism is an essential part of democracy. Sometimes, when something is done against the will of the government, when something is done bypassing the main principles of the Constitution, then obstructionism is necessary, whether in this House, or that House or outside the House, on the streets, by the people.
Now Sir, what should be the reforms? Many of us possibly have forgotten about the Second Commission on Centre-State Relations, constituted by GOI and that is called Punchhi Commission. After Sarkaria Commission, Punchhi commission was constituted and they submitted their report in 2010. We are in 2019, yet the recommendations have not been finalised by the successive governments and the present government. The recommendations are in regard to Rajya Sabha. I am concentrating on Rajya Sabha only.
The first recommendation that Punchhi Commission made in regard to Rajya Sabha is that “the essence of federalism lies in maintaining the balance of power of governance, and in this respect the Council of States i.e. Rajya Sabha occupies a significant role. There is no doubt that the Rajya Sabha is the representative of States of the union and is supposed to protect States’ rights in central policy making.
It further says, the Commission is of the considered view that as far as inhibiting the composition and function of the second chamber as a representative forum of states should be removed or modified even if it requires the amendment of constitutional provisions. This is felt more now when centralisation tendencies are getting stronger and fragmentation of the polity is becoming intense, this is very important. Nowadays, we are finding that centralisation of power based on majoritarianism. The centralisation of power is acute, therefore this recommendation of the Punchhi Commission must be adhered to.
Second recommendation regarding Rajya Sabha reforms, Punchhi Commission says wherever central policies are formulated in relation to one or more states, as the Hon’ble former Prime Minister stated, it is only proper that committees of Rajya Sabha, involving representatives of concerned States are allowed to discuss and come up with alternate course of action acceptable to the States under union. In fact, Rajya Sabha offers immense potential to negotiate and accept the solutions to the friction points which may emerge between the Centre and the States in fiscal, legislative and administrative relations.
And finally the Punchhi Commission recommends about Rajya Sabha. It says- the balance of power between states and inter-se… this possible by equality of representation in the Rajya Sabha. If the Council of States has failed to function, as representative of states as originally envisaged it is because of the asymmetry of the coalition politics and the way the party system developed. The functioning of Rajya Sabha can be reformed to achieve the original purpose of federal equilibrium. The Commission therefore strongly recommends amendment of the relevant provisions to give equality of seats to states in the Rajya Sabha irrespective of their population size. So that is a very crucial recommendation whether one accepts or not.
And finally the Commission is also of considered opinion that the reasoning of the Supreme Court in the Kuldip Nayar cases, whereby domicile requirement should be done away with, that should be restored in the Section (III) of the Representation of People Act should be revived in its original form. That is the recommendation of the Punchhi Commission.
And now, regarding the rules of the Rajya Sabha, but before that I want to submit that right now, even the existing legislative powers of Rajya Sabha are under attack because many Bills are turned as Money Bills. I have already said about it. Those are the rules. I’m giving one example that we cannot discuss the role of the Governor unless we move a Substantive Motion. I moved Substantive Motion against one Governor; it was listed in two consecutive motions but was never taken up. This is the fate of Substantive Motions. Therefore some provisions should be made that we can discuss institutions like that the office of a Governor because it is very essential.
Governors are appointed nowadays like people call them as agents of the Central Government; I do not subscribe to that view but unfortunately this is the common view. In some states the role that are being performed by the Governors are detrimental to the constitutional scheme and the interest of people at large. Humare rajya mein jo rahe hain, kabhi bhi kuch bhi bolne lage hain Rajyapal. Accha apko rajniti karna hai. Rajniti ki jiye aap; Rajnitipal mat baniye. Aap Rajnitipal mat baniye. Aap ko rajniti karna hai, kijiye aap, lekin Raj Bhavan ko chodke ke ki jiye.
I’m referring to the Rules. Agar Substantive Motion nahin aata hain, charcha ke liye to hum kaise charcha karenge? Humko to koi avkash dena chahiye. Nivedan hai ki Rajyapal-ko niyantrit karna hain rules ke motabek.
Thank you, Sir.