The Rajya Sabha or Council of States is the upper house of the Parliament of India. Rajya means "state" and Sabha means "assembly" in Sanskrit. Membership is limited to 250 members, 12 of whom are nominated by the President of India for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services. The remainder of the body is elected by the state and territorial legislatures. Terms of office are six years, with one third of the members retiring every two years.
The Rajya Sabha meets in continuous sessions and, unlike the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, is not subject to dissolution. The Rajya Sabha has equal footing in all areas of legislation with Lok Sabha, except in the area of supply, where the Lok Sabha has overriding powers. In the case of conflicting legislation, a joint sitting of the two houses is held. However, since the Lok Sabha has twice as many members as the Rajya Sabha, it would normally hold the greater power in such joint sessions. Only three such joint-sessions have been held; the latest one for the passage of the 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The Vice President of India (currently, Hamid Ansari) is the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who presides over its sessions. The Deputy Chairman, who is elected from amongst its members, takes care of the day-to-day matters of the house in the absence of the Chairman. The Rajya Sabha held its first sitting on 13 May 1952.