Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad may not be known to many of our countrymen, particularly the young generation and it is justifiably so. The Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad is the upper house only in those States of India that have a bicameral legislature. As of 2014, seven (out of twenty-nine) States have a Legislative Council viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telengana, and Uttar Pradesh.
Before proceeding further, let us briefly discuss on a few important aspects covering the Legislative Council, as under:
Each Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) serves for a six-year term, with terms staggered so that the terms of one-third of a Council’s members expire every two years. This arrangement parallels that for the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India.
MLCs must be citizens of India, at least 30 years’ old, mentally sound, not an insolvent, and on the voters’ list of the State for which he or she is contesting an election. He or she may not be a Member of Parliament at the same time.
The size of the Vidhan Parishad cannot be more than one-third the membership of the Legislative Assembly or Vidhan Sabha. However, its size cannot be less than 40 members (except in Jammu and Kashmir, where there are 36 by an Act of Parliament.)
MLCs are chosen in the following manner:
- One-third is elected by members of local bodies such as Municipalities, Gram Sabhas /Gram Panchayats, Panchayat Samitis and Zila Parishads.
- One-third is elected by members of Legislative Assemblies of the State from among the persons who are not members of the Assembly.
- One-sixth is nominated by the Governor from persons having knowledge or practical experience in fields such as literature, science, arts, the co-operative movement and social service.
- One-twelfth is elected by persons who are graduates of three years’ standing residing in that State.
- One-twelfth is elected by persons engaged for at least three years in teaching in educational institutions within the State not lower than secondary schools, including colleges and universities.
Proposed Vidhan Parishads:
In 2010, the Parliament passed an Act to re-establish a Legislative Council for an eighth state, Tamil Nadu, but implementation of the Act has been put on hold pending legal action; the state government has also expressed its opposition to the council’s revival.
- Union Cabinet of India has cleared the State of Assam to form a Legislative Council on 28 November 2013.
- Odisha State is preparing to set up a legislative council after conducting a study in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- After the victory of the Akali Dal-BJP in Punjab, the Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal stated that he would re-constitute the state’s Vidhan Parishad.
However, none of those four States could re-establish Vidhan Parishad so far.
Abolition and revival:
The existence of a Legislative Council has proven politically controversial. A number of States that have had their Council abolished have subsequently requested its re-establishment; conversely, proposals for the re-establishment of the Council for a State have also met with opposition. Proposals for abolition or re-establishment of a State’s Legislative Council require confirmation by the Parliament of India.
In April 2007, the State of Andhra Pradesh re-established its Legislative Council. The State’s main opposition party, the Telugu Desam Party, had stated that it would abolish the council again if it came to power in the state at the material period. Now since it is power, let’s see which way it proposes to move.
Role of Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council:
It has no powers in terms of passing bills; be it money bills or ordinary bills unlike Rajya Sabha which has equal powers as that of Lok Sabha in terms of Ordinary bills and Amendment bills. This is the reason, it is generally optional to have Vidhan Parishad. But the salary, emoluments and other allowances of a Member of Vidhan Parishad is same as that of his counterpart in Vidhan Sabha.
Theoretically, the powers of the Legislative Council are coequal with the Assembly. But in reality the Council is a weak partner of the Legislative Assembly. Ordinary bills can originate in any chamber of the legislature. A bill in order to become an Act must be approved by both the chambers and receive the assent of the Governor. The Governor may give his assent or return the bill back to” legislature with his observations. The legislature while reconsidering the bill may or may not take note of the views of the Governor on the bill. The Governor is bound to give his assent to the bill when it is presented to him for the second time. If the Legislative Council disagrees with a bill passed by the Legislative Assembly, then the bill must have a second journey, from the Assembly to the Council.
But ultimately the views of the Assembly shall prevail. The Council has no powers to advise a bill passed in the Assembly. It can only delay the passage of the bill for 3 months in the first instance and for one month in the second. There is no provision of joint sitting as in case of disagreement in Parliament over ordinary bills. In the ultimate analysis the Legislative Council is a dilatory chamber so far as ordinary legislation is concerned. It can delay the passage of the bill maximum for a period of four months.
In the domain of finance it has almost no powers. Like the Council of States, it enjoys a subordinate position in financial matters. Money Bills originate only in Assembly. After they are passed in the Assembly it is sent to the Council. The Council can keep it for a period of maximum 14 days. If it does not pass it within that period, it is deemed to have received the approval of that House.
The Council can control the executive by way of putting questions to ministers, by raising debates and adjournment motions to highlight the lapses of the government but it cannot throw a government out of power. The Legislative Assembly in addition, to the powers discussed above enjoys the power to move vote of no confidence which can force the government to resign. In case of controlling the executive the final say lies with the Legislative Assembly.
The makers of the Constitution have deliberately given a secondary position to the Council of States so that both the chambers in the state do not compete with each other for supremacy. The purpose was to accommodate various professional interests in the Legislative Council, who through their experience can act as the friend, philosopher and guide of the Legislative Assembly.
Relevance of Existence of Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council:
Critical analyses of the roles / functions of Vidhan Parishad clearly reveal that it a redundant body without much relevance.
It is observed that in recent days, most of the important party members, who are not provided with party tickets for contesting assembly polls are given a seat in the council. This turns the states’ councils into political rehabilitation centers thus, changing the very purpose of establishing them. Moreover, the huge cost incurred towards salary and allowances, travelling, etc. of such a large number of MLCs (wherever they exist) and that too not for any fruitful results appear to be avoidable.
In other words, this unnecessary burden on the exchequer can easily be curtailed by abolishing these bodies where they are still in existence.
I am, therefore, of the strong view that all the existing Legislative Councils have to be closed down at the earliest. Apart from that, there is also a need for amendment of the Constitution to the effect that no new Legislative Council will be set up by any political party in power of any State in future.