Rajya Sabha hits new milestone as 250th session begins

Representative image. (PTI photo)

The Rajya Sabha will be crossing one more milestone when the MPs assemble for the Winter Session of Parliament – it will be the Upper House’s 250th session that comes 67 years after its first sitting on May 13, 1952.

To commemorate the occasion, it will have a special discussion on the first day itself on the ‘Role of Rajya Sabha in Indian Polity and Need for Reforms’. During the debate, the Opposition is expected to target the Narendra Modi government for what they perceive as undermining of the House where it is in a minority by bringing certain bills as money bills whose fate does not depend on its decision.

In its long and uninterrupted innings, the Upper House has passed 3,924 Bills, threw some into dustbin that included three Constitution Amendment Bills, expelled three MPs and saw the lone impeachment proceedings in India’s Parliamentary history.

It has many unique moments in its history, which has seen 2,282 MPs over these years, including 208 women and one of its current MPs Mahendra Prasad (BJP) holding on to the post for seven terms, the highest for any. If one takes the number of years, former MP Najma Heptullah, who is presently Manipur Governor, tops the list with 36 years in Rajya Sabha.

Going against Lok Sabha

At least thrice, the Rajya Sabha had voted against Constitution Amendment Bills, which included the 24th Amendment Bill of 1970 that sought to terminate privy purses and privileges of former Indian states, 64th Amendment Bill of 1989 relating to panchayats and 65th Amendment Bill relating to Nagar Panchayats and Municipalities.

President's Rule 

Twice Rajya Sabha alone had approved imposition of President’s Rule when Lok Sabha was dissolved under Article 356(3) – the first was in 1977 when the Upper House assembled between February 28 and March 1 to extend President’s Rule in Tamil Nadu and Nagaland as well as in June 3 and 4, 1991 to approve imposition of Article 356 in Haryana.

Casting Vote 

CPI(M)’s M A Baby holds another record for being the presiding officer to cast the first and only one casting vote on August 5, 1991, during a voting on the statutory resolution seeking disapproval of Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Ordinance when it was tied at 39 each. Baby voted in favour of the resolution, which was then adopted.

Tryst with midnight 

Sitting beyond midnight occured nine times in Rajya Sabha’s history. The longest was on December 17, 1981, when the House sat till 4:43 am the next day for passing the Essential Services Maintenance Bill, 1981.

Another instance was when the House sat on December 29, 1986, till 3:22 am the next day to discuss under Short Duration Discussion on purchase of Bofors guns.

Long Debates 

On duration of debates, the Upper House discussed for 12:04 hours on June 4, 1991, the issue of failure to provide security for Rajiv Gandhi, soon after his assassination. The demolition of Babri Masjid was discussed for 11:37 hours on December 18 and 21, 1992, and Indo-US nuclear deal for 10:06 hours on December 4 and 12, 2007.

Shown the door 

Rajya Sabha took the extreme step of expelling members thrice – the first was Subramanian Swamy on November 15, 1976, during Emergency after his activities were found to be “derogatory to the dignity of the House”.

In December 2005, Chhatrapal Singh Lodha was expelled after he was found guilty of accepting money for asking questions and the next year, Sakshi Maharaj was shown the door following for irregularities in sanctioning funds under MPLADs.

Making Amendments 

There are five bills which were defeated by Rajya Sabha despite its passage in Lok Sabha included The Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2002 and three Constitution Amendment Bills. While the Rajya Sabha passed Constitution (64th Amendment) Bill, Lok Sabha did not clear it.

Also, Rajya Sabha has amended 120 Bills that were passed in Lok Sabha, including UGC Bill 1954, Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill and Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019.

“Rajya Sabha that came into being in 1952 has its role cut out in the task of guiding the country towards new horizons. A close examination of the Bills passed by the Upper House since 1952 illuminates the march of our country on the chosen path and holds mirror to the contribution of our Parliament in surmounting various hurdles that have been inherited on account of long period of subjugation,” Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu says. 
 

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