The Parliament is the highest lawmaking body in India.
Both the Houses of Parliament have their own sphere of power and functions. All Bills, except a ‘Money Bill’ or financial Bills, may originate in any of the Houses.
However, it should not mean that the Rajya Sabha is less important or has been given secondary role in relation to the Lok Sabha. Under the Article 107 of Indian Constitution, a Bill shall not be deemed to have been passed by the Houses of the Parliament unless both the Houses of Parliament agree on it.
As such, the Rajya Sabha has equal power with those of the Lok Sabha with respect to passing of a Bill, Constitutional amendment, impeachment of President, Vice-president, removal of the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
On the other hand, the Lok Sabha being directly represented ‘popular will’ of the people enjoys commanding position over the Rajya Sabha on certain legislative matters.
Except Money and financial Bills, both the Houses enjoy co equal powers. Every Bill shall be passed by both the Houses before it is referred to President for his assent. If a deadlock arises between the two Houses of the Parliament over an ordinary bill, the President shall summon a joint parliamentary sitting presided by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to resolve it.
The Bill shall be passed by a simple majority of the voting and present. There have been only three joint parliamentary sittings of the two Houses on the Dowry Prohibition Bill 1959, the Banking Service Commission (Repeal) bill, 1978; and the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2002.
Relation between the two Houses
Under article 75(3) of the Constitution, the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, which means that the Rajya Sabha cannot make or unmake the Government.
It can, however, exercise control over the Government and this function becomes quite prominent, particularly when the Government does not enjoy majority in Rajya Sabha.
To resolve a deadlock between the two Houses, in case of an ordinary legislation, the Constitution provides for the joint sitting of both Houses.
Issues in the Joint Sitting are decided by a majority of the total number of members of both Houses present and voting. The joint sitting is held in the Central Hall of Parliament House presided over by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
However, in the case of a Money Bill, there is no provision in the Constitution for a Joint Sitting of both Houses as the Lok Sabha clearly enjoys pre-eminence over Rajya Sabha in financial matters.
As regards a Constitution amendment Bill, it has been provided in the Constitution that such a Bill has to be passed by the specific majority, as prescribed under article 368 of the Constitution, by both Houses. There is, therefore, no provision for resolving a deadlock between the two Houses in regard to a Constitution amendment Bill.
The ministers may belong to either House of Parliament. The Constitution does not make any distinction between the Houses in this regard. Every Minister has the right to speak and take part in the proceedings of either House but he is entitled to vote only in the House of which he is a member.
Similarly, with regard to powers, privileges and immunities of the Houses of Parliament, their members and committees thereof, the two Houses are placed absolutely on equal footing by the Constitution.
Other important matters in respect of which both Houses enjoy equal powers are election and impeachment of the President, election of the Vice-President, approving the Proclamation of Emergency, the proclamation regarding failure of constitutional machinery in States and financial emergency. In respect of receiving reports and papers from various statutory authorities, etc., both Houses have equal powers.
It is thus clear that except in the case of collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers and certain financial matters, which fall in the domain of Lok Sabha only, both Houses enjoy equal powers.
Special Powers of the Rajya Sabha
There are also certain specific powers of the Rajya Sabha which the Lok Sabha does not enjoy. Under the Article 249 of the Constitution, the Rajya Sabha can initiate legislation on any of the subject exclusively reserve for the States if the House passes a resolution by a 2/3 majority.
Such a resolution will hold for a year at a time and may be extended for one more year. The Article 312 of India Constitution empowers the Rajya Sabha to create All India Services provided that two-third of its members approves such a resolution.
Besides the Rajya Sabha can approve a proclamation of emergency under the Article 352 of the Constitution for a period of six months when the Lok Sabha remained suspended. These special powers certainly add prestige of the Rajya Sabha.
Rajya Sabha in Financial Matters
A Money Bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha on the recommendation of the President. After a Money Bill is passed in the Lok Sabha, it is referred to the Rajya Sabha for it approval with a certificate from the Speaker stating that the Bill is a Money Bill.
The Rajya Sabha has no power either to reject or amend the Bill. It must, within 14 days from the date of receiving the Bill, return to the Lok Sabha with or without its recommendation. The Lok Sabha is free to accept or reject the recommendation.
In such cases where a Money Bill is not returned to the Lok Sabha within the stipulated time of 14 days from the date on which the Bill is transmitted to the House, it shall be deemed to have been passed by both the Houses at the expiration of the period in the form in which it was passed by the Lok Sabha.
If any question arises on a Bill whether the Bill is a Money Bill or not, the speaker of the Lok Sabha shall decide on the issue. In short, the Lok Sabha enjoys commanding position over issues of finance.
There are, however, some other types of Financial Bills on which there is no limitation on the powers of the Rajya Sabha. These Bills may be initiated in either House and Rajya Sabha has powers to reject or amend such Financial Bills like any other Bill. Of course, such Bills cannot be passed by either House of Parliament unless the President has recommended to that House the consideration thereof. From all this, however, it does not follow that Rajya Sabha has nothing to do in matters relating to finance.
The Budget of the Government of India is laid every year before the Rajya Sabha also and its members discuss it. Though Rajya Sabha does not vote on Demands for Grants of various Ministries, a matter exclusively reserved for Lok Sabha, no money, however, can be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of India unless the Appropriation Bill has been passed by both the Houses. Similarly, the Finance Bill is also brought before Rajya Sabha. Besides, the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees that examine the annual Demands for Grants of the Ministries/Departments are joint committees having ten members from Rajya Sabha.