All you need to know about the State Legislative Councils of India

Legislative Councils
Legislative Councils

India's political structure embraces a dual-chamber system, evident at both the central and state levels. Within this system, the state legislature is bifurcated into two distinct bodies: the Legislative Assembly, also known as Vidhan Sabha, and the Legislative Council, commonly referred to as Vidhan Parishad. The Legislative Council, acting as the upper house of the state, enjoys a permanent existence, and its establishment or dissolution is governed by the provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India, particularly Article 169.

It is noteworthy that only six states in our nation currently maintain a Legislative Council as part of their bicameral legislatures. These states include Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. The presence of both the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly within these states signifies the functioning of a dual-chamber legislative system.

Legislative Council and Constitutional Provisions

The provisions for the establishment or dissolution of state legislative councils are laid out in the Indian Constitution, specifically in Article 169. This article states that Parliament has the power to pass legislation that either dissolves the legislative council of a state that already has one or creates one in a state that doesn't. But this can only happen if the state's Legislative Assembly approves a resolution calling for the change. The resolution must receive the support of not less than two-thirds of the members who are present and voting, as well as a majority of the Assembly's entire membership.

Any law passed to establish or abolish a legislative council must also contain the necessary language to amend the Constitution in order to be effective. Additionally, Parliament has the authority to add any supplemental, incidental, or consequential provisions that it sees fit to the law. It is significant to note that under Article 368, such a law is not regarded as a change to the Constitution.

Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council

In the Indian political system, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council serve distinct roles. The term of the Legislative Assembly is typically five years unless it is dissolved earlier upon the request of the chief minister. On the other hand, members of the Legislative Council have a tenure of six years, with a third of the members retiring after every two years.

The Legislative Assembly functions as the lower house, similar to the Lok Sabha in Parliament. It is subject to dissolution and undergoes elections to form a new assembly. In contrast, the Legislative Council is a permanent house, resembling the Rajya Sabha at the national level. However, the Legislative Council can be dissolved if necessary.

Under Article 169 of the Indian Constitution, Parliament has the power to create or abolish a Legislative Council in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution supporting such a change by a special majority. For instance, the Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council) in Andhra Pradesh was abolished by Parliament in 1985, but it was later reinstated in March 2007.

The Legislative Council is created through a process of nomination and indirect elections. The members of the Council are either nominated by the Governor of the state or are indirectly elected. One-third of the members of the Council are elected by the Legislative Assembly, while another one-third are elected by local bodies such as municipalities or other local authorities. Additionally, one-twelfth of the members are elected by graduates and one-twelfth by teachers. About one-sixth of the members are nominated by the Governor. 

The total number of members in the Legislative Council of a state cannot exceed one-third of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly, and the minimum number of members is set at forty. To be eligible for membership in the Legislative Council, a person must be an Indian citizen and have attained at least 30 years of age. It is important to note that no person can simultaneously be a Member of Parliament and a member of a state legislature.

The role of the Legislative Council is defined by the Constitution of India. While it has limited power, it serves as a deliberative body that brings forward issues and problems in large and diverse states that may have been overlooked by the Legislative Assembly. However, the Council does not have the authority to make or break a government or reject Finance Bills. The Council has a Chairman and Deputy Chairman who hold the status of Cabinet Ministers in the state.

The Legislative Council holds significance as it functions as a forum for deliberation, bringing wisdom and expertise from noted personalities in various fields. These individuals, who may not have been elected through the regular electoral process, can contribute their knowledge in the Council. Furthermore, the Council plays a role in scrutinizing the decisions made by the Legislative Assembly, suggesting corrective measures when necessary, and fostering debates to reach a consensus in the interest of the general public.

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