The legislative branch of the Union government is called the Parliament that consists of the President and two Houses known as the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).
It is important to appreciate that making the President a part of the Parliament is in conformity with the principles and traditions of the parliamentary form of government. We shall now discuss the composition, powers, and functions of both the Houses of the Parliament.
Lok Sabha or the House of the People is the lower house. It is the people’s representative body. The members of the Lok Sabha are directly elected by the people of India. The number of its members cannot exceed 550.
Out of these, 530 are directly elected by the people of the States, and the remaining 20 members are elected from the Union Territories. All the citizens who are 18 years of age and above have the right to vote and elect the members of the Lok Sabha.
According to the Constitution, if there is no member of the Anglo-Indian Community in the Lok Sabha, the President can nominate two persons of this community as members. When the elections are announced, each State and Union Territory is divided into various territorial constituencies based on population.
These are known as Parliamentary Constituencies. One representative to Lok Sabha is elected from each of the constituencies. The term of the Lok Sabha is five years. However, it can be dissolved even earlier by the President.
During an emergency, its term can be extended for a period of one year. Those who want to be a member of the Lok Sabha must be a citizen of India,
- be of at least 25 years of age, and
- not hold an office of profit under the central, state or local governments.
He/She should possess such other qualifications as may be specified by law made by Parliament from time to time.
Rajya Sabha (the Council of States) is the upper house of Parliament. The maximum number of members of this house cannot exceed 250. Out of these, 238 members represent the States and Union Territories and 12 are nominated by the President of India.
The nominated members are distinguished persons in the field of literature, art, science and social service. The elected representatives are elected by the State Legislative Assemblies according to the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.
The number of members from each State depends on the population of that State. The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution. The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected for 6 years. But there is an arrangement according to which one-third of the members retire every two years and new members are elected.
The retiring member can be re-elected. To be eligible to be a member of the Rajya Sabha, a person must
- be a citizen of India and be at least 30 years of age.
Other qualifications are the same as those for the members of the Lok Sabha. The sessions of the Parliament are summoned by the President. There should not be a gap of more than six months between the two sessions.
The President has the right to prorogue the sessions. Lok Sabha can be dissolved by the President but not the Rajya Sabha, as it is a permanent house of the Parliament.
Lok Sabha is presided over by the Speaker and in his/her absence by the Deputy Speaker. Members of the Lok Sabha elect the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker from among themselves.
He/She maintains order and discipline in the lower house as well as supervises its proceedings. He/She decides who will speak and for how long. He/She normally does not cast his/her vote but can vote in case of a tie.
The Speaker decides whether a bill is an ordinary or a money bill and his/her decision is final. Besides, he/she is the custodian of the rights and privileges of the members. In the case of a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha presides over such meetings.
Rajya Sabha is presided over by the Vice President of India who is its ex-officio Chairman. The Chairman (Vice-President) is not a member of the Rajya Sabha. He/ She is elected by an electoral college consisting of the members of both the Houses of Parliament.
During his/her absence, the House is presided over by the Deputy Chairman. Like the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha also does not normally vote but in case of a tie, he/she may exercise the casting of vote.
Also read: Legislative Council Can’t Be Scrapped