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West Bengal Government to set up Legislative Council – Pros and Cons of Legislative Council

West Bengal Government to set up Legislative Council – Pros and Cons of Legislative Council

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  • GS 2 || Polity || State Government || State Legislature

Why in news?

  • The newly-elected West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad), as per a decision taken up at the Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister.
  • WB Legislative Council was abolished in 1969 after the left front government came to power.

What are Legislative Councils?

  • The LC or Vidhan Parishad is the upper house in those states that have a bicameral legislature; the lower house being the State Legislative Assembly.
  • As the Rajya Sabha, the legislative council is a continuing chamber, that is, it is a permanent body and is not subject to dissolution.

Article 169 – Abolition or creation of Legislative Councils in States

  • The Parliament can abolish a Legislative Council or create it 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.
  • The resolution for abolition must by a 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.
  • 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.

Term of the Members

  • Each Member of the State LC serves for a six-year term, with terms staggered so that the terms of one-third of a State Legislative Council’s membership expire every two years.
  • This arrangement parallels that for the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India.
  • A member of LC must be a citizen of India, at least 30 years old, mentally sound, not insolvent.

Composition 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.
  • The total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall in no case be less than 40.

Representation in an LC

  • 1/3rd of members are elected by State Legislative Assembly Members,
  • 1/3rd of members are elected by representatives PRIs/ULBs
  • 1/12th of members are elected by teachers.
  • 1/12thof members are elected by
  • 1/6th are nominated by (From various fields including art, science, literature, social service, and the cooperative movement).

Legislative Councils in other states

  • Six states have VidhanParishads
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Bihar
  • Karnataka
  • Maharashtra
  • Telangana
  • UP
  • Jammu and Kashmir had a Council until the state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh in 2019.
  • In 1986, Tamil Nadu abolished the Council.
  • The Odisha Assembly has passed a resolution for a Legislative Council.
  • Proposals to create Councils in Rajasthan and Assam are pending in Rajya Sabha.

The rationale for the creation of State Legislative Councils

  • To act as a check on hasty actions by the popularly elected House.
  • To ensure that individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too can contribute to the legislative process.
  • Lateral political entry without elections.
  • Having a second chamber would allow for more debate.
  • Sharing of work between the Houses.

Arguments against having a second house

  • It is argumented as an unnecessary drain on the exchequer.
  • Nomination of party loyals
  • 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.
  • Limited 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 legislation by the Council.
  • No role to MLCs in the election of the president.
  • MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.
  • Cannot stop lower house actions – 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 the Money Bill passed by the Assembly. 

Mains model question

  • Discuss the role that LCs were envisaged to perform as per the founding fathers of our constitution – as a revisory house, allow diverse section to be a part of the law-making process.

References