Recently, the West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad), as per a decision taken up at the Cabinet meeting chaired by its Chief Minister.
- For setting up the Council, a Bill has to be introduced in the Assembly and then a nod from the Governor is required. The Upper House existed till 1969.
Back to Basics
About State Legislative Council
- The State Legislative Council, or Vidhan Parishad, is the upper house in those 6 states of India that have a bicameral state legislature; the lower house being the State Legislative Assembly. Its establishment is defined in Article 169 of the Constitution of India.
- According to Article 169, the Parliament can create or abolish the SLC of a state if that state’s legislature passes a resolution for that with a special majority.
- The existence of an SLC has proven politically controversial.
- A number of states that have had their LCs abolished have subsequently requested its re-establishment; conversely, proposals for the re-establishment of the LC for a state have also met with opposition.
- As of 2020, seven (7) (out of twenty-nine) states have a Legislative Council viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh
- The size of the SLC cannot be more than one-third of the membership of the State Legislative Assembly.
- However, its size cannot be less than 40 members.
- These members elect the Chairman and Deputy Chairman from the Council.
MLCs are chosen in the following manner:
- One third are elected by the members of local bodies such as municipalities, Gram panchayats, Panchayat samitis and district councils.
- One third are elected by the members of Legislative Assembly of the State from among the persons who are not members of the State Legislative Assembly.
- One sixth are nominated by the Governor from persons having knowledge or practical experience in fields such as literature, science, arts, the co-operative movement and social services.
- One twelfth are elected by persons who are graduates of three years’ standing residing in that state.
- One twelfth are elected by teachers who had spent at least three years in teaching in educational institutions within the state not lower than secondary schools, including colleges and universities.
Powers and functions of Legislative Councils
- The Constitution of India gives limited power to the State Legislative Council.
- The State Legislative Council can neither form nor dissolve a state government.
- The State Legislative Council also have no role in the passing of money bills.
- But some of the powers it has is that the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the State Legislative Council enjoy the same status as Cabinet Ministers in the state.
Comparison with 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.
- Assemblies can override suggestions/amendments made to legislation by the Council.
- Again, unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, MLCs cannot vote in elections for the President and Vice President. The Vice President is the Rajya Sabha Chairperson while a member from the Council itself is chosen as the Council Chairperson.
Criticisms & Support
- The State Legislative Councils are criticised for being unnecessary. It is considered a burden on the state budget and cause delays in passing legislations.
- State legislative council helps the defeated leaders to get a seat in the state legislature.
- This reduces the feeling of democracy, since the leaders are elected indirectly.
- These are the reasons why most of the states don’t prefer legislative councils.
- Other states support the establishment of legislative councils, arguing that they represent the local governments and also give voice to people having expertise in various fields (through Gubernatorial nominations).
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