Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
What to study?
For Prelims: Features, composition and formation of legislative councils.
For Mains: Significance and issues related.
Context: The Madhya Pradesh government has indicated that it plans to initiate steps towards creation of a Legislative Council.
What are the Legislative Councils, and why are they important?
India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament. At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.
A second House of legislature is considered important for two reasons: one, to act as a check on hasty actions by the popularly elected House and, two, to ensure that individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too are able to contribute to the legislative process.
Why do we need a second house?
- They can be used to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.
- They can be used to delay progressive legislation.
- They would strain state finances.
- Having a second chamber would allow for more debate and sharing of work between the Houses.
- Rather than fulfilling the lofty objective of getting intellectuals into the legislature, the forum is likely to be used to accommodate party functionaries who fail to get elected.
- It is also an unnecessary drain on the exchequer.
- Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so. Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
- While Rajya Sabha MPs can vote in the election of the President and Vice-President, members of Legislative Councils can’t. MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.
- As regards Money bills, only fourteen days’ delay can be caused by the Council, which is more or less a formality rather than a barrier in the way of Money Bill passed by the Assembly.
Creation of a legislative council:
Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority.
Currently, six states have Legislative Councils. Jammu and Kashmir too had one, until the state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
Strength of the house:
As per article 171 clause (1) of the Indian Constitution, the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall not exceed one third of the total number of the members in the legislative Assembly of that state and the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall in no case be less than 40.
How are members of the Council elected?
- 1/3rd of members are elected by members of the Assembly.
- 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state.
- 1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers.
- 1/12th by registered graduates.
- The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.
Legislative Councils are permanent Houses, and like Rajya Sabha, one-third of their members retire every two years.
Do Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads have similar powers?
Not really. The constitution gives Councils limited legislative powers. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so. Legislative Assemblies have the power to override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
There is need of a National Policy on having Upper House in State Legislatures. The provision of the law for Councils to have seats for graduates and teachers should also be reviewed.
There is a need for wide range of debates and public and intellectual opinion to have an Upper House in all state legislatures. Legislative councils should be a responsible body that can also form their part in policies and programmes for the development of states.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Why Some States in India have Bicameral Legislatures? Discuss the relevance of the Legislative Councils in the States in the backdrop of recent demand of certain states to create the second house.