- The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has moved to create a Legislative Council for the state, in keeping with the promise in its manifesto ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections. Not all states have two Houses. Which are the ones that do, and why is a second House needed?
The second House
- India has a bicameral system of legislature at the Union level. Just as Parliament has two Houses, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, individual states too, can choose to have a Legislative Council in addition to the Legislative Assembly. This option is available under Article 171 of the Constitution. As in the Rajya Sabha, members of a state Legislative Council too, are not directly elected by voters.
Origins and logic
- When the founding fathers of the Republic were debating the Constitution of free India, opinion in the Constituent Assembly was divided on the idea of having a second House.
- It was argued that a second House would help check hasty actions by the directly elected House. Also, non-elected individuals in the Upper House would be able to contribute to the legislative process.
- Opponents of the idea argued that political parties would be able to use the Legislative Council in the states to delay legislation, and as a sop or sinecure for leaders who have failed to win an election.
Creation of Legislative Councils
- Under Article 169, a Legislative Council can be formed “if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect 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”. Parliament can then pass a law to this effect.
Members of Legislative Councils
- Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the total number of MLAs of that state, and not less than 40 members.
- Jammu & Kashmir, which will soon cease to exist as a state, was the exception to this provision: as per Section 50 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, the Assembly had 87 members, and the Legislative Council 36.
- As with Rajya Sabha MPs, the tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in a state is six years, with one-third of the members of the House retiring every two years.
- A third of the MLCs are elected by the state’s MLAs, another third by a special electorate comprising sitting members of local governments such as municipalities and district boards. A twelfth is elected by an electorate of teachers, and another twelfth by registered graduates.
- The remaining members of the Council are appointed by the Governor for distinguished service in various fields.
States with Councils
- If J&K, which has been split into two Union Territories, not be considered, six states currently have Legislative Councils. They are:
- Andhra Pradesh (176 MLAs; 58 MLCs)
Bihar (243 MLAs; 75 MLCs)
Karnataka (225 MLAs; 75 MLCs)
Maharashtra (289 MLAs; 78 MLCs)
Telangana (119 MLAs; 40 MLCs)
Uttar Pradesh (404 MLAs; 100 MLCs)
- Before Madhya Pradesh, which is planning a 76-member Upper House, Odisha had, in 2018, moved to create a Legislative Council of 49 members (1/3rd of the 147-member Assembly).
- Several years ago, Tamil Nadu’s DMK government had passed a law to set up a Council, but the subsequent AIADMK government had withdrawn it after coming to power in 2010.
- The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council was set up in 1958, abolished in 1985, and reconstituted in 2007.
- Proposals to create Legislative Councils in Rajasthan and Assam are pending in Parliament. The PRS Legislative Research website lists the status of both these Bills as pending.
Vidhan Parishad and Rajya Sabha
- The legislative power of the Councils are limited. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack a constitutional mandate to do so. State Assemblies can override the suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council.
- Unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, MLCs cannot vote in elections for the President and Vice President. The Vice President of India is the Chairman of Rajya Sabha.