Amid a debate on the role of Rajya Sabha, its Chairman Hamid Ansari on Saturday said that the Upper House was required to “check haste, cool passion, control legislation” and flag interests of individual states. Unlike the Russian Federation, India is a Union of States which is “indestructible”, he said.
“So under the Union of States, purposes are specified, the intentions of specified. But because it is a Union, the states have certain interest which are not necessarily reflected in the other House of the Parliament. Therefore it is expected and happens on many occasions that individual states interests are flagged in Rajya Sabha,” Ansari said.
Citing the example of Andhra Pradesh without taking its name, he said the issue of giving special status to the state was discussed at great lengths in the Rajya Sabha.
“As far as my reading of the Constitution goes, the two Houses are equal. And if you read the text carefully, wherever the two Houses are mentioned, the Council of States or the Rajya Sabha is mentioned before the House of People, or the Lok Sabha,” he said addressing an Orientation Programme for newly-elected and nominated members of the Upper House.
Emphasising the importance of committee system in the Parliament, Ansari said it helps refining the legislations. Ansari said often it is asked why Rajya Sabha is needed, but there are several reasons for its existence.
Citing a comment of a first generation American legislator, he said it was required to “cool the tea”.
“The purpose of the other House is to check haste, cool passions and control legislations. All three are important. Very often it happens that for this reason or for that reason sufficient attention is not given either to the purpose of legislation or to the wording,” he said.
Ansari said the system of Standing Committees, introduced in 1993, has a “lacuna” of not requesting the ministers to join its meetings.
“I shared this (thought) even with Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. May be sometimes in the future, we will reach that stage when committee will request ministers to attend (the meetings) and committee can benefit from those views. But we have not reached that moment at this stage,” Ansari said.
Terming the committees as “immensely useful”, Ansari said the experience of individual members come into play during drafting of legislations.
He said bills are drafted in a government department with the best of intentions and by competent people, but the implications of legislations are not always evident and require scrutiny.
“You need careful scrutiny. What is the meaning of a particular piece of legislation? What is the meaning of word or an expression. Ultimately all of it is subject to judicial scrutiny. It is in the committee stage that words and expressions get amended and changed. The experience of individual members come into play. Committee work is very important,” he said.