Context:

The West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad), as per a decision taken up at the Cabinet meeting.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Legislature, Bicameralism)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Bicameral Legislature?
  2. Advantages of having the Upper House (Benefits of Bicameralism)
  3. Disadvantages of having a second house (Advantages of Unicameral Legislature)
  4. About State Legislative Council – Vidhan Parishad
  5. Election to the Legislative Council
  6. Creation of a Legislative Council for a State
  7. Who can abolish a legislative council?

What is Bicameral Legislature?

When the legislative body consists of two separate houses – it is called Bicameral Legislature. In a bicameral legislature, the function to administer and implement the laws are shared between the two houses.

India is one such example where there are two houses of legislature both at the Union and also in some states.

At the central level, the Indian Parliament has two houses:

  1. Lok Sabha (Lower House)
  2. Rajya Sabha (Upper House)

At the state level, currently 6 of the 28 state legislatures have two houses:

  1. Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha – similar to Lower House)
  2. Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad – similar to Upper House)

Advantages of having the Upper House (Benefits of Bicameralism)

  1. The Rajya Sabha at the Centre helps to better represent the States. In general, legislature with 2 houses can better represent sub-national / sub-state governments.
  2. The Second house (Upper House/Legislative Council) can act as a body of expert scrutiny and review.
  3. The Upper House/Legislative Council provides a further democratic check on the power of the Lower House/Legislative Assembly
  4. The Second House helps provide better representation for various ethno-cultural minorities or socio-economic interests.

Disadvantages of having a second house (Advantages of Unicameral Legislature)

  1. A single chamber can be cheaper, simpler and more efficient
  2. A single house avoids duplication and deadlock,
  3. Unicameral legislature helps in concentrating democratic responsibility in one elected assembly.
  4. The checks and balances of bicameralism can also be provided by other institutions, without the need for a second legislative chamber. Hence, it may be argued that a second house is redundant for the purpose of providing a democratic check.

About State Legislative Council – Vidhan Parishad

  • Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad is the upper house in bicameral legislatures in some states of India.
  • While most states have a unicameral legislature with only legislative assembly, currently, six states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh have legislative councils.

Strength of the Legislative Council: The total number of the Legislative Council should not exceed 1/3rd of the total number of members of the Legislative assembly, but it should not be less than 40 (Article 171).

Election to the Legislative Council

In the Legislative Council, there are 5 different categories of representation:

  1. 1/3rd of the total membership is elected by the electorates consisting of the members of the self-Governing bodies in the state such as Municipalities, District Boards etc.
  2. 1/3rd members are elected by the members of the Legislative assembly of the State
  3. 1/12th members are elected by an electorate of University Graduates.
  4. 1/12th members are elected by the electorate consisting of the secondary school teachers (3-years’ experience)
  5. 1/6th members nominated by the Governor on the basis of their special knowledge / practical experience in literature, art, science, cooperative movement or social service.

The election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote and secret ballot method for the first 4 categories of representation (i.e., except for nomination by the governor).

Qualifications for election as MLC

  1. Must be a citizen of India
  2. Must have completed the age of 30 years
  3. Must possess such other qualifications as prescribed by the Parliament by law.
  4. The member should not hold the office of the profit.
  5. Should not be of unsound mind; and
  6. Should not be an undischarged insolvent.

Term of Legislative Councils

  • The legislative council is a permanent body but 1/3rd of its members retire every 2 years.
  • The members of the council elect a chairman which is called “presiding officer”.
  • The council also elects the Deputy chairman.

Creation of a Legislative Council for a State

  • Article 168 of the Constitution of India provides for a Legislature in every state of the country. The same Article mentions that there are some states where there is a legislative council as well. Thus, the Indian Constitution does not adhere to the principle of bicameralism in the case of every legislature.
  • The framers of the Constitution as well as members of the Constituent Assembly had in mind that it may not be possible for all the states to support two houses, financially as well as for other reasons. For example, some of the members of the Constituent assembly criticized the idea of a bicameral legislature in the states as a superfluous idea and a body that is unrepresentative of the population, a burden on the state budget and causing delays in passing legislation.
  • That is why, whether there should be a legislative council in the state or not, is decided by the Legislative Assembly of the state itself.
  • But it does not mean that the Legislative Assembly can itself create a legislative council. The Constitution of India has full provisions about the creation of a Legislative Council and its abolishment.

Who can abolish a legislative council?

  • The power of abolition and creation of the State legislative council is vested in the Parliament of India as per Article 169.
  • But again, to create or to abolish a state legislative council, the state legislative assembly must pass a resolution, which must be supported by 50% majority of the total strength of the house and 2/3rd majority of the members present and voting (Absolute + Special Majority).
  • When a legislative council is created or abolished, the Constitution of India is also changed.
  • However, still, such type of law is not considered a Constitution Amendment Bill. (Article 169).
  • The resolution to create and abolish a state legislative council is to be given assent by the President as well.

-Source: The Hindu

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