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Recently, the Election Commission was going to conduct elections for 55 Rajya Sabha seats, on 26th of March, 2020, which were going to get vacant on or before the 12th of April, 2020. A total of 37 members have been elected unopposed and elections were to be conducted for 18 seats. But with the unpredicted Coronavirus outbreak and complete lockdown in the country, these elections had to be called off by the Election Commission until further notice.
The 18 seats included 4 seats from Gujarat, 3 from Rajasthan, 3 from Madhya Pradesh, 4 from Andhra Pradesh, 2 from Jharkhand, and 1 each from Manipur and Meghalaya. The Elections from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh infused suspicion after the defection of leaders from Congress to BJP recently.
The functioning of the Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha is the Upper House of the bicameral Parliament of India. It has a maximum strength of 250 members, out of which, 245 are currently elected. The Vice-President of India is the ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and a Vice-chairman is elected within the house itself. The Rajya Sabha is a permanent house and does not dissolve. A member of the Rajya Sabha has a tenure of 6 years and is elected indirectly. The Upper House has equal powers as that of the Lower House, except for the matters of Money bills.
Rajya Sabha election process
Rajya Sabha has a maximum strength of 250 members, out of which 245 are currently sanctioned. The sanctioned seats have 233 elected members (225 from States and 8 from Union Territories), and 12 nominated members, which are nominated by the President of India.
The Rajya Sabha, unlike the Lok Sabha, does not dissolve and holds elections for its one-third members every 2 years. The Rajya Sabha elections are not conducted directly as that of Lok Sabha, rather these elections are indirect. The process that is followed is the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. The elected Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) of all the States vote to elect the members of Rajya Sabha.
The MLAs are given a list of candidates in which they have to give a number to the candidates in order of their preferences. Those who receive at least 10 votes as first preference are elected. This system is adopted to ensure that the Rajya Sabha does not have a majority of those candidates who are from the ruling party.
There are two types of Elections to Rajya Sabha:
- Electoral College: This method is used for the indirect elections of the candidate by the representatives of the State Legislative Assemblies or the Electoral College of the Union Territory, as the case may be. Single Transferable Vote system is used for these elections.
- Bye-Election: The tenure of a member of Rajya Sabha is 6 years. But if a member retires before the completion of his tenure, his position is filled up by the method of Bye-Elections.
Elections for Rajya Sabha are conducted indirectly deliberately by the Election Commission. If these elections would have been conducted directly, like Lok Sabha Elections, the majority of seats would have been taken away by the ruling party only. If that would have happened, the government would have enormous power, and it would be very difficult to oppose any policy. This would also have failed the principles of democracy. Hence, to ensure equality and justice, the Rajya Sabha Elections are conducted indirectly.
Eligibility criteria: Voters and candidates
The Voters in the Elections to Rajya Sabha are the Members of Legislative Assemblies of States. To become an MLA, a person:
- Must be a citizen of India.
- Must be of 25 years of age in the case of Legislative Assembly and 30 years of age in the case of Legislative Council. Must be a voter of the State he is contesting elections for.
The Candidates in the Elections to Rajya Sabha must:
- Be a citizen of India.
- Make and subscribe before some person authorized in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the following form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution.
- Be of not less than 30 years of age.
- Not be a proclaimed criminal.
- Not be of unsound mind.
- Not hold any other office of profit under the Government of India.
- Not be insolvent.
Constitutional provisions which regulate the Rajya Sabha
The following provisions of the Constitution of India regulate the Rajya Sabha:
- Article 80 – Article 80 of the Constitution of India ascertains the maximum strength of the Rajya Sabha to be 250, out of which 238 can be elected from States and Union Territories, and 12 are to be nominated by the President of India. Out of these 250 seats, 245 seats are currently allocated and 5 seats are vacant.
- Article 84 – Article 84 of the Constitution of India lays down the qualifications required to be a member of the Rajya Sabha. These qualifications are as follows:
- Candidate must be a citizen of India.
- Candidate should be of 30 years of age.
- He should fulfill any other qualifications required under any Law made by the Government of India.
- Article 102 – Article 102 of the Constitution lays down that a person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament. These grounds for disqualifications are as follows:
- Candidate ceases to be a citizen of India.
- He holds any office of profit under the Government of India.
- He is of an unsound mind.
- He is insolvent.
- He is disqualified under any Law made by the Parliament.
Rajya Sabha elections are different from that of the Lok Sabha Elections to ensure that the principles of democracy are not defeated. These Elections happen once every two years and one-third of the strength changes. These special elections are conducted through the system of Single Transferrable Vote (STV).
The Upper House has equal powers as that of the Lower House, the only exception being Money Bills. This house is permanent, and cannot be dissolved by the President. The Constitution has provided provisions under which a person may be qualified or disqualified from being a candidate of the house.
Author: Naman Keswani from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.
Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala.