Q. Explain the constitutional provisions under which Legislative Councils are established. Review the working and current status of Legislative Councils with suitable illustrations. (250 words)18 Jan, 2022 GS Paper 2 Polity & Governance
- Start with explaining Legislative councils and constitutional provisions related to them.
- Discuss the working and the current status of legislative councils.
- Give a way forward in order to make legislative councils effective.
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. 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.
- Article 169 (Creation and Abolition):
- The Parliament can abolish a Legislative Council (where it already exists) or create it (where it does not exist) by a simple majority, that is, a majority of the members of each House present and voting, if the legislative assembly of the concerned state, by a special majority, passes a resolution to that effect.
- Special majority implies
- A majority of the total membership of the assembly and
- A majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the assembly present and voting.
- Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the total strength of the State Assembly, and not less than 40 members.
Like the Rajya Sabha, the legislative council is a continuing chamber, that is, it is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution. The tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is six years, with one-third of the members retiring every two years.
Criticism of the legislative councils in the states
- Vested Interests: Legislative Council often serves as a stronghold of vested interests, which do not support progressive legislation. Instead, they block such legislation initiated by the popularly elected Legislative Assembly.
- Not an Effective Check: Powers of the Legislative Councils are limited to the extent that they can hardly impose any effective check on the Assemblies. Whether a Bill is liked by the Council or not, it is apt to be passed maximum after four months’ delay if the Assembly so decides.
- Backdoor Entrance of the Defeated Members: Legislative Council may be utilized to accommodate discredited party-men who may not be returned to the Assemblies.
- Costly Institution: The second house is often considered as a heavy burden on public exchequer without any great significance.
- Heterogeneous Chamber: The composition of the Legislative Council also has entailed a very severe criticism. A blend of direct election, indirect election and nomination make the Council a hotchpotch of representation.
- Dysfunctional representation: From the functional representation point of view, the representation is too narrow. Many other professions apart from the enumerated in the constitution also deserve representation.
Advantages of the Legislative councils
- Check against Hasty Legislation: The second chambers in the States protect the interests of the people against the hasty and ill-considered legislation initiated and passed by the lower Houses.
- Check on Despotic Tendencies of Lower Chamber: The imposition of check on autocracy of the lower chambers.
- Accommodation of Election Shy Talent: Moreover, elderly, experienced and sober individuals, cannot-bear the ordeal of electioneering neither campaign nor are they keen to indulge in vicious party politics. The presence of such an element in the legislature of a State not only adds to its grace, but also exercises a sobering and purifying influence on the politics of the State.
- Initiation of Non-Controversial Bills in Upper Chambers: The bills of non-controversial nature can start their course in the Councils first. It lessens the burden of the lower House and enables it to fully concentrate on measures of greater importance.
- Thorough Discussion on the Bills by More Mature and Seasoned Members: The atmosphere in the Councils is comparatively serene. Emotions do not run riot there as political antagonism or factional rivalry is almost nonexistent in the Council. Emotional outbursts are also rare. Hence the standard of debates in the Legislative Councils is high and the pros and cons of the legislation in question are thrashed out dispassionately.
There is a need for a wide range of debates and public and intellectual opinions 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 programs for the development of states.
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