Powers and Functions of the Rajya Sabha

1. Legislative Powers:

  • In the sphere of ordinary law-making the Rajya Sabha enjoys equal powers with the Lok Sabha. An ordinary bill can be introduced in the Rajya Sabha and it cannot become a law unless passed by it.
  • In case of a deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament over an ordinary bill and if it remains unresolved for six months, the President can convene a joint sitting of the two Houses for resolving the deadlock.
  • This joint sitting is presided over by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. If the bill is passed in the joint sitting, it is sent to the President for his signatures. But if the deadlock is not resolved, the bill is deemed to have been killed.

2. Financial Powers:

  • In the financial sphere, the Rajya Sabha is a weak House. A money bill cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha. It can be initiated only in the Lok Sabha. A money bill passed by the Lok Sabha comes before the Rajya Sabha for its consideration.
  • However, if within a period of 14 days, the Rajya Sabha fails to pass the bill, the bill is taken to have been passed by the Parliament irrespective of the fact whether the Rajya Sabha has passed it or not.
  • If the Rajya Sabha proposes some amendments and the bill is returned to the Lok Sabha, it depends upon the Lok Sabha to accept or reject the proposed amendments.

3. Executive Powers:

  • “The Union Council of Ministers is collectively responsible before the Lok Sabha and not the Rajya Sabha.” Lok Sabha alone can cause the fall of the Council of Ministers by passing a vote of no-confidence.
  • Although the Rajya Sabha cannot remove the Ministry from its office yet the members of the Rajya Sabha can exercise some control over the ministers by criticising their policies, by asking questions and supplementary questions, and by moving adjournment motions. Some of the ministers are also taken from the Rajya Sabha. Now the Prime Minister can also be from Rajya Sabha if the majority party in the Lok Sabha may elect/adopt him as its leader.

4. Amendment Powers:

  • Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can together amend the constitution by passing an amendment bill with 2/3 majority in each House.

5. Electoral Powers:

  • The Rajya Sabha has some electoral powers also. The elected members of the Rajya Sabha along with the elected members of the Lok Sabha and all the State Legislative Assemblies together elect the President of India. The members of the Rajya Sabha Lok Sabha together elect the Vice- President of India. Members of the Rajya Sabha also elect a Deputy Chairman from amongst themselves.

6. Judicial Powers:

(a) The Rajya Sabha acting along with the Lok Sabha can impeach the President on charges of violation of the Constitution.

(b) The Rajya Sabha can also pass a special address for causing the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court or of any High Court.

(c) The charges against the Vice-President can be leveled only in the Rajya Sabha.

(d) The Rajya Sabha can pass a resolution for the removal of some high officers like the Attorney General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General and Chief Election Commissioner.

7. Miscellaneous Powers:

The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha jointly perform the following functions:

(a) Approval of the ordinances issued by the President,

(b) Ratification of an emergency proclamation,

(c) Making any change in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, and

(d) Making any change in the qualifications for the membership of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

8. Two Special Powers of Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha enjoys two exclusive powers:

(i) The Power to declare a subject of State List as a subject of National Importance:

  • The Rajya Sabha can pass a resolution by 2/3rd majority of its members for declaring a State List subject as a subject of national importance. Such a resolution empowers the Union Parliament to legislate on such a state subject for a period of one year. Such resolutions can be repeatedly passed by the Rajya Sabha.

(ii) Power in respect of Creation or Abolition of an All India Service:

  • The Rajya Sabha has the power to create one or more new All India Services. It can do so by passing a resolution supported by 2/3rd majority on the plea of national interest. In a similar way, the Rajya Sabha can disband an existing All India Service.