Relevance of Legislative Council
The West Bengal government has recently approved the setting up of the Legislative Council. The decision will have to be approved by Parliament before coming into effect.
Why do 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.
About Legislative Councils:
● Article 169(1) of the Constitution allows Parliament to either create or abolish a Council if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority (majority of the total membership of the Assembly and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present and voting).
● The act of Parliament to create/abolish LCs is not deemed as an amendment under Article 368. So, a Simple majorityin Parliament suffices.
● At present, there are six states viz Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, Karnataka, where the Legislative Council is in existence. Jammu and Kashmir too had one, until the introduction of the J&K Reorganisation Bill, 2019 that bifurcated it into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
● Under Article 171(1), the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the total strength of the State Assembly, and in no case, shall have fewer than 40 members.
Tenure of Members:
● Similar to the Rajya Sabha, the legislative council is a continuing chamber,i.e. it is not subject to dissolution. The tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is of six years, with one-third of the members retiring every two years.
Standing concerning Legislative Council:
● The constitution hasn’t mandated LCs to shape non-financial legislation (Ordinary Bills, Constitution Amendment Bills) like it has been substantially endowed to Rajya Sabha.
● Legislative Assemblies can override suggestions/amendments made to a Bill by the Council. There is no provision of a joint sitting to resolve the deadlock.
● Further, Rajya Sabha MPs, are part of the electoral college related to elections for the President and Vice President whereas MLCs are not.
● Also, the status accorded to Chairperson of Rajya Sabha (Ex-Officio Vice President) is starkly different vis-à-vis elected chairperson of the Legislative Council.
Rationale for Creation:
● India has a bicameral system vis-a-vis legislative setup. So, In the same manner, like that of Indian Parliament that has two Houses (House of the People and House of Elders), the states can also have an equivalent of Upper house i.e. Legislative Council.
● Acts as a check and balance on hasty and populist actions by the directly elected House.
● Facilitates diversity in the legislative process by the provision of the nomination of non-elected individuals.
● It enhances the representation of local bodies in state legislation as they are given rights to elect 1/3rd of the members of the LC.
Criticism of State Legislative Councils:
● Superfluous and Mischievous: If a majority of the members in the upper house belong to the same party which holds the majority in the lower house, the upper house will become a mere ditto chamber. On the other hand, if two different parties are in majority, the upper house will delay the bills for months unnecessarily. Thus its role may become nasty and obstructive.
● Not an Effective Check: Powers of the Legislative Councils are limited and hardly impose any effective check on the Assemblies. Whether a Bill is approved by the Council or not, the assembly can still go ahead after four months.
● Vested Interests: Legislative Council serves only as a stronghold of vested interests of people, who are not interested in legislation. Instead, they may block such legislation initiated by the popularly elected Legislative Assembly.
● Backdoor Entrance of the Defeated Members: Legislative Council can be utilised to accommodate discredited party-men who may not be returned to the Assemblies.
● Expensive Institution: It is expensive and a big drain on the State’s exchequer
● There is a need for 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 a 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.