NEW DELHI: The Opposition has had an upper hand in the Rajya Sabha for 39 of the 68 years in terms of numbers, but this did not adversely impact making of laws, even though other concerns have emerged, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said on Wednesday.
He said this while recounting the journey of the Upper House in a Facebook post on the 68th anniversary of its first sitting.
“The mode of elections to and tenures of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha are different. This could lead to a situation of the Government of the day having majority as required in the Lok Sabha and not having the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. This is what had happened over the years,” he noted.
While this had happened for the first time during 1968-70, it remained so at a stretch for the last 31 years, he said.
Naidu said the Rajya Sabha held 5,472 sittings and passed 3,857 Bills till the Budget Session this year, even as it asserted it’s independence on some occasions.
He referred to three Joint Sittings in 1961, 1978 and 2002 when the Rajya Sabha rejected the Dowry Prohibition Bill, 1959, the Banking Services Commission (Repeal) Bill, 1977, and the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, 2002, respectively. In 1959, the then government had majority in the Upper House.
The Rajya Sabha also differed with the Lok Sabha when it rejected the Constitution (Twenty-fourth Amendment) Bill, 1970, seeking to abolish privy purses to the erstwhile rulers and two more such Constitution Amendment Bills in 1989 seeking to strengthen the Panchayats and Municipalities which later became the Acts of Parliament.
Referring to delaying of passing of some other Bills by the Upper House, Naidu said that if they amounted to checking ‘hasty legislation’, the Rajya Sabha passed five Constitution Amendment Bills in a day on August 25, 1994, when the then government did not have the numbers.
Naidu recalled the Upper House passing several major Bills relating to GST, IBC, triple talaq, re-organisation of J & K, citizenship amendment etc, even though the present government does not have the numbers.
“This suggests that no case can be made against the Rajya Sabha as being obstructionist in law making,” he noted.
He further observed that irrespective of the composition of the House, time spent on legislation remained 29 pc of the total functional time of the Upper House.
Speaking of the way forward, Naidu said, “It should be to let the House discuss, debate and decide on each issue. If the perception is that political considerations form the basis of rising disruptions, it needs to be addressed by all the stakeholders including all sections of the Rajya Sabha.”
“The line between obstruction and disruption is thin and needs to be put aside,” he said.
Tracing the evolution of the Rajya Sabha, Naidu stated that it is turning out to be more and more a deliberative body having spent 33.54 pc of the time of the House on discussing issues of public importance during 1978-2014; 41.42 pc during 2005-14 and a high of 46.59 pc during 2015-19.
The chairman, however, expressed concern over declining time spent on the oversight function of the House amidst rising trend of disruptions eroding the productivity of the House.
He observed that the Rajya Sabha spent 39.50 pc of the total time on ensuring the accountability of the executive during 1978-2004 which declined to 21.99 pc during 2005-14 and further to 12.34 pc during 2015-19.
This was primarily on account of the “Question Hour being abandoned due to disruptions”, he said.
Naidu informed that the functional productivity of the Rajya Sabha used to be about 100 pc till 1997 and it slid to 87 pc during 1998-2004, to 71 pc during 2005-14 and further to 61 pc during the next five years.
“Since 1978, the annual productivity of the Rajya Sabha has been 100 pc in only 12 years and it has never been 100 pc in the last 29 years,” he said, adding that the lowest annual productivity of 38.63 pc was recorded in 2018.