Lower House vs. Upper House

Difference Between Lower House and Upper House

In democracies around the world, it is common practice to have a bicameral legislature. This means that there are two houses in the Parliament known as the Upper House and the House of Commons. The two largest democracies in the world, the United States of America and India, both have bicameral Parliament. In India, we call the two houses of the Parliament the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha; while in the United States they are called the Senate and Congress. There are many differences in the functioning, powers and privileges of the two houses of the legislature. This article attempts to differentiate between these two houses in the Parliament.

Normally, the common people directly elect the members for the House of Commons. On the other hand, the members of the Upper House are wealthy and influential people, who have already established themselves in their chosen field of work. The basic idea behind having an upper house or Senate (in the case of the United States) was to have a stabilizing force in the Parliament. As senators were not elected by the voters, but were chosen by the legislators themselves, it was expected that they would be men of more experience and wisdom. They would add their common sense, knowledge and experience to the work of the legislature. Even in India, the Rajya Sabha consists of eminent economists, writers, literary figures, social scientists and thinkers. The collective maturity and wisdom of these personalities in the Upper House are required to consider some of the bills that are passed in haste by the House of Commons. This is why the bills passed by the House of Commons are not put into immediate effect until they are also passed through the Upper House.

The two houses of the Parliament go hand in hand. The relationship between the two houses varies according to the conventions in that particular democracy and the requirements of the local political system. In some Parliaments, the Upper House is more powerful than the House of Commons, while in others, both houses have equal powers.

Many political thinkers and critics feel that the existence of an upper house is a waste of time. Bills and resolutions take a longer time to clear both the houses. Yet there are many who feel that the bicameralism system is healthy for democracies. The Upper House acts as a check and a balance for the Lower House. They are in a position to delay any legislation that has been passed by the House of Commons in haste.

While the members of the House of Commons are elected directly by the people based on adults of voting age, the members of the upper house are proportionate to the population of the state they represent.


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