The process of creating and abolishing State Legislative Councilsis governed by Article 169.These councils serve as the upper house in states,similar to the Rajya Sabha at the central level, albeit with less power. Presently, legislative councils exist in seven states.
The desirability of having a bicameral legislature atthe state level has been a subject of debate since the time of the Constituent Assembly, and recent events have reignited this discussion.
Arguments against Legislative Councils:
- Superfluous legislative appendages: When the majority of members in the upper house belong to the same party that holds the majority in the lower house, the upper house becomes a mere duplicate chamber.
- Ineffectiveness as a check: The powers of legislative councils are limited, making it difficult for them to impose significant checks on the State Assemblies. They can only delay a bill for up to four months.
- Entry of defeated members through the backdoor: Critics express concerns that legislative councils could be utilized to accommodate discredited party members who were not successful in Assembly elections.
- Costly institution: Bicameralism in states is an expensive endeavour, putting a strain on the state’s finances.
- Heterogeneous composition: The blend of direct elections, indirect elections, and nominations in legislative councils results in a diverse representation. However, such a composition neither serves the purpose of a revisory chamber nor effectively acts as a check against hasty legislation.
Nevertheless, proponents argue that legislative councils can help prevent hasty legislation, curb despotic tendencies of the lower chamber, and provide a platform for talented individuals who do not wish to contest assembly elections.
- Currently, the creation and abolition of legislative councils are dependent on the state government and the Union Parliament. The State Legislative Assembly can pass a resolution for the creation or abolition of a council, while the Union Parliament passes a corresponding law.
- In this regard, a parliamentary committee examining the Rajasthan and Assam bills, which proposed the creation of Legislative Councils, suggested the need for a national policy on establishing a permanent second chamber. Such a policy would prevent subsequent governments from abolishing legislative councils at their discretion.
- Adopting a national policy would provide a more structured approach to address the issue, instead of relying on ad hoc decisions. During the formulation of such a policy, it would be essential to evaluate whether the time and resources invested in having a second chamber are justified.