Introduction:The article discuss about the Upper House in different countries and the holding up of GST in India.
Topics:General Studies, Paper-II & IIIItalian scenario :
- Italy has been a parliamentary democracy since World War II. But not even once did it elect a government that could last a full term of five years.
- One source of this instability is the nature of its bicameral legislature.
- The upper House has equal power and a very unusual veto.
- This dysfunctional feature has led to instability, revolving-door governments and frequent charges of horse-trading.
- To change this, Italy needed to reform its constitution, and curtail the power of its upper House.
- This reform bill was finally passed in Parliament in April, despite huge opposition. This portends more stable governments in the future.
- The problem of the upper House of bicameral legislatures holding up crucial reform is also being experienced in Canada and Australia, albeit less severely than Italy.
- The origin of this problem can be traced to a mini-crisis in 1911 in UK Parliament. It led subsequently to the Parliament Act of 1911 and 1949, establishing the formal dominance of the lower House.
- One consequence of this is that ‘money bills’ are required to be passed only in the lower House, a feature codified in India’s Constitution.
- India’s upper House is council of states whose members are elected indirectly by state legislatures. (By contrast in the US, the upper House, i.e. the Senate members, are directly elected).
- The Rajya Sabha represents the states. Its role is also that of providing checks and balances in lawmaking, to provide reason and deliberation, and to function beyond considerations of party politics.
- If a legislation that originates from the Lok Sabha is driven by popular will and brute majority, then Rajya Sabha can subject it to the broader test of rationality, practicality, relevance and reasonableness.
- That’s because the Rajya Sabha is more immune to electoral interests. But sometimes its deliberations can also slow down legislation or eventually kill it.
- In rare instances, the Rajya Sabha’s delay and intransigence can become counter-productive.
- It will be the most important indirect tax reform since independence. It is a huge deal, because it entails all 29 states and seven Union territories voluntarily giving up their constitutional right to impose sales tax (and sundry other taxes) in exchange for a uniform country wide system.
- It will create a borderless common and integrated economic market within India, and is expected to permanently add to GDP growth significantly.
- The roll-out of GST requires a constitutional amendment, and hence passage in both Houses. It has cleared the lower House. But now, it is stuck in the Rajya Sabha.
- Of the three technical objections raised in the Rajya Sabha, two have been sorted out. These relate to eliminating the 1% additional tax, and evolving an autonomous dispute resolution scheme.
- The only sticking point is whether to put an upper numerical limit in the law on the applicable tax rate.
- This can surely be incorporated in the rules that will be framed or in some appropriate manner.
Question: The Rajya Sabha represents the states. Its role is also that of providing checks and balances in lawmaking, to provide reason and deliberation, and to function beyond considerations of party politics. Discuss.
- Why do we need Upper House.
- How Upper House can become an obstruction.
- Suggested measures.