Two Houses Of Parliament In India – Composition And Functions
According to Article 79 of the Indian constitution, the Indian Parliament consists of the President and the two Houses. The two Houses are known respectively as the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha).
The House of the People (Lower House or Lok Sabha)
The Lower House, the House of People or the Lok Sabha consists of 545 elected members and two members nominated to represent the Anglo-Indian community.
Of the 545 elected members, 526 come from the states and 20 from the union territories. The members of the Lok Sabha are directly elected by the people on the basis of adult suffrage. Every Indian above the age of 18 is entitled to vote in the Lok Sabha election, if he is not otherwise disqualified. To be a member of the Lok Sabha, however, one must be a citizen of India of at least 25 years of age.
The House elects a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker from among its members. The Speaker and in his absence, the Deputy Speaker presides over the sessions of the Lok Sabha.
The Lok Sabha is elected for a period of 5 years. However, the Lok Sabha may extend its own life by an act of the Parliament, not exceeding one year at a time, when a national emergency under Article 352 are in operation. In any case, such extension cannot continue beyond six months after the emergency is lifted.
Composition of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha)
The council of states, known in Hindi as the Rajya Sabha, is the Upper Chamber of the Indian Parliament. It is composed of not more than 250 members. Of the 250 members, 238 are indirectly elected the legislative assemblies of the states and union territories. 12 members are nominated by the President from among Indians of exceptional achievements in literature, science, arts, etc. The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected by the state legislative assemblies on the basis of proportional representation by means of single transferable votes.
The Rajya Sabha reflects the federal principle in the Union Parliament. But the equality of representation of the states as in the composition of the U. S. Senate has not been accepted in India. Consequently, the more populous states like the Uttar Pradesh have a larger representation in the Rajya Sabha than the less populous ones like Arunachal or, Nagaland.
Functions of the Parliament
India has adopted the Parliamentary system of Government. In such a system, the legislature and the executive function as mutually are reinforcing interdependent organs of government. They are not independent and rival organs as in a Presidential system. Each depends on and sustains the other.
The Primary function of the Parliament is law making Articles 107-108 vests law making powers in the Parliament. All laws of the union shall have to be passed by both the Houses of the Parliament. Even Presidential ordinances to continue, needs parliamentary assent. As the Government is undertaking more and more welfare activities, the volume of legislative work of the Parliament is also steadily increasing.
The most important function of the Parliament however is providing a government. The government is run by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers responsible to the Parliament. The Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party in the popular chamber i.e. in the House of People.
Responsibility of the Cabinet to the Parliament implies that the Cabinet must enjoy the support of the majority in the Lok Sabha. The majority party in the House of People gives the Government the support necessary to keep in power.
The critical function of the Parliament is to criticize the cabinet and the ministers for all acts of commission and omission. Parliamentary criticism and exposure keeps the government on the right track. This function is performed by the opposition rather than the treasury benches.
Next Parliament acts as an organ of information to the nation. The debates in the Parliament and questions to the ministers elicit information about the policies and actions of the Government which would not otherwise be available. The debates in the Parliament are elaborately reported in the newspapers. These Parliamentary debates help the formation of public opinion.
The Parliament also institutes enquiries into complaints of Governmental misdeeds as into the working of Governmental agencies. Parliamentary enquiries are of great importance in keeping the Government on the right path.
Finally, the Parliament acts as a great check on the financial activities of the government. The Parliament not only checks governmental incomes and expenditures, it also keeps a close watch on the financial activities of the Government. Two committees of the Parliament the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee are of crucial importance in this respect.
Whether the Parliament is a sovereign law making body?
There is an interesting debate among constitutional experts whether the Parliament of India is a sovereign law making body like the British Parliament. Though India has a Parliamentary system of government, the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty has not been fully accepted in India. In a system of Parliamentary sovereignty, no law passed by the Parliament can be challenged in a court of law on grounds of unconstitutionality. As Mr. Justic Willis said, in Britain, no court can sit as a Court of appeal from the Parliament. A law passed by the Parliament can be nullified only by the Parliament itself. But where the Government is based on—the system of constitutional sovereignty like the U. S. A. laws passed by the legislature may be challenged on grounds of unconstitutionality. Courts exercise the power of judicial review to decide the constitutional validity of the laws.
The Indian constitution combines both the principles of Parliamentary and constitutional sovereignty. The Indian constitution grants the Power of Judicial review in laws affecting fundamental rights and distribution of powers between the states (schedule 7th). In other matters Parliament is sovereign. Thus, the Indian Parliament is not a fully sovereign law making body.