The Rajya Sabha should be given “greater respect by the executive”, and should be consulted before “drastic measures” are taken, like “converting a state into Union Territories and redrawing its boundaries”, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday, referring to the government’s move to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and split it into two union territories.
Manmohan Singh also said Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, must be thanked for the manner in which the role of the Rajya Sabha, or the upper house of parliament, had evolved.
“The Rajya Sabha is a crucial component of checks and balances of the constituent system. We normally think of checks and balances as an operative term but the role of Rajya Sabha becomes important in a majoritarian system… It is our duty to ensure that no laws are violated in an atmosphere of heightened emotion,” the former prime minister said, speaking during a special debate to mark the 250th session of the Rajya Sabha.
This was again seen as a reference to the Article 370 move by the government in August and how it was pushed through parliament.
Paying tribute to Jawaharlal Nehru to the thumping of desks in the House, the senior Congress leader said: “For the manner in which the role of Rajya Sabha has evolved, we must thank Jawaharlal Nehru. If not for his effort, parliament would have been reduced to a mere secondary function. He rewarded Rajya Sabha as an equal partner in parliamentary affairs.”
Dr Singh suggested several measures to make the Rajya Sabha more effective and give it more teeth, including that the Upper House be allowed to discuss and deliberate important measures in greater depth.
He also said that Parliament should follow the practice for all Bills to be brought before the Rajya Sabha, or the council of states.
“We have seen misuse of money bills leading to bypassing of the Rajya Sabha without any deliberation,” he said, adding that parliament should “ensure that such instances are avoided as this reduces the stature of the institution.”
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