Amid calls for a relook at the powers and functions and even the relevance of the Rajya Sabha, Deputy Chairman of the House P.J. Kurien told The Hindu that a split majority (the Treasury being in the Opposition in the Upper House) was not an “abnormal situation” and that Constitution framers had been mindful of these contingencies when the Council of States was set up.
“Constitution framers had certainly foreseen these developments. The Rajya Sabha was supposed to act as a check on the legislation, a bicameral legislature means that there are checks and balances in the system. The Lok Sabha as you know has directly elected members, they have their Constituency interests and sometime emotions may reign when they consider some legislation. There should be another body to check and scrutinise. The Rajya Sabha is doing that. The Constitution is set up for this,” he said.
“Anyone who questions the relevance of the Rajya Sabha haven’t understood the basic structure of the Constitution.”
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Baijayant “Jay” Panda and on Wednesday, even Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu had raised questions on the current structure of the House.
Some in the government had raised questions on why the Rajya Sabha Chairman or his deputy was reluctant to pass Bills in the din, when there was overall consensus over it. “Do you think passing a Bill in the din without scrutiny is a wise thing? It has to be passed after discussion, that is the ideal proposition since it has consequences for the people. Therefore, during the din, Bills shouldn’t be passed. During UPA time, the then Opposition demanded this. The present Opposition is the same. As far as the Chair is concerned, this is a permanent demand,” he said.Consensus on Bills
He added that in the last three days of the Winter Session however, the Chairman (Vice-President Hamid Ansari) took the initiative, “he ensured there was consensus on six Bills and it was because of that we were able to work. I admonished the Opposition yesterday, and we took initiative.”
The government has to govern, and the Opposition has to make it accountable. The two must come to an understanding, he said. “This is not the first time that we have a government with an impairment in numbers. In [former Prime Minister] P.V. Narasimha Rao’s time, he didn’t have numbers in the Lok Sabha, yet he ran the country, without much disruption in Parliament, for five years. There was a time when Indira Gandhi didn’t have a majority, she too managed to get legislative business through,” he added.
“The Rajya Sabha’s functions have been specially mentioned in the Constitution. In fact, it is mentioned before the Lok Sabha. India is a Union of States and is federal, therefore the Council of States is a representative body of the States. Therefore it has equal importance,” he said.