West Bengal To Set UP Legislative Council

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    The West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad).

    • 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.

    About Legislative Council

    • The State Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad is the upper house in states of India that have a bicameral state legislature; the lower house being the State Legislative Assembly.
    • Once the Legislative Council is set up, West Bengal will become the seventh state to have a Legislative Council. The other six being:
    • Uttar Pradesh
    • Bihar
    • Telangana
    • Andhra Pradesh
    • Karnataka
    • Maharashtra
    • The Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Council has been abolished as it was divided into Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.

    Abolition or Creation of  Legislative Council

    • According to the Article 169 of the Constitution of India, the Parliament of India can create or abolish the State Legislative Council of a state if that state’s legislature passes a resolution for that with 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.
    • There are three steps before the formation of the Council:
    • Approval of the cabinet; 
    • Governor’s approval and 
    • Intricate details of the formation of the Council will be discussed in the Assembly and then the law will be framed.

    Composition

    • The size of the State Legislative Council 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 of the State Legislative Council.
    • Members of Legislative 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 the 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 teaching in educational institutions within the state not lower than secondary schools, including colleges and universities.

    Qualification

    The Constitution lays down the following qualifications for a person to be chosen a member of the Legislative Council:

    • He must be a citizen of India. 
    • He must be not less than 30 years of age in case of the Legislative Council.
    • He must make and subscribe to an oath or affirmation before the person authorised by the election commission for this purpose. In his oath or affirmation he swears,

    (i) to bear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of India;

    (ii) to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India. 

    • He must possess other qualifications prescribed by the Parliament.
    • A person to be elected to the legislative Council must be an elector for an assembly constituency in the concerned state and to be qualified for governor’s nomination, he must be a resident in the concerned state.

    Tenure

    • The tenure of the Members of Legislative Council (MLCs) is six years
    • One-third of the members of the State Legislative Council retire after every two years. This arrangement is similar to that for the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India.
    • The vacant seats are filled up by fresh elections and nominations by governor at the beginning of every third year.

    Advantages of the Legislative Council

    • Expanding Consultative Process: The main objective of the legislative council is to expand the consultative process of government. An upper house makes the process of consultation more broad based which could result in making laws more effective and less prone to revisions.
    • More Representative: It provides more representation from people having diverse backgrounds such as arts, science, literature etc. and makes the state legislature broad-based. It facilitates representation of eminent professionals and experts.
    • Sharing the work:  It reduces the workload of the legislative assembly by sharing the legislation work which enables the legislative assembly to focus on the issues or matters of greater importance.
    • Checks and Balances: Democracy needs checks and balances. Having a second house offers effective resistance to any kind of ill-considered agenda through legislative assembly by majority government or the ruling party.
    • Better Legislation: It prevents hasty, defective or careless legislation and protects the legislative process from tyranny of few legislators.

    Criticism of the Legislative Council

    • Accommodating Failed Politicians: Legislative councils are more concerned about self-serving political motives than fulfilling the requirement of democratic representation. As it tries to rehabilitate political stalwarts and unpopular politicians through the back doors who have failed to be elected in the Legislative Assembly. 
    • Limited Powers: The Constitution of India gives limited power to the State Legislative Councils. They can neither form or dissolve a state government. They also have no role in the passing of money bills. The council is subordinate to the legislative assembly in all respects.
    • Unnecessary Financial Burden: The State Legislative Councils are criticised for being unnecessary. Having two houses for the state government has monetary implications which makes a huge burden on the state budget.
    • Delayed Decision-Making: The legislative Council would only delay decision-making as evident from the experience of Rajya Sabha in some cases.
    • Dependent over Assembly: The existence of a State Legislative Council has proven politically controversial. The very existence of the Council depends on the wheel of assembly as it can be abolished by Parliament on the recommendation of assembly.
    • Questioning Utility: A number of states that have had their Legislative Council abolished have subsequently requested its re-establishment. Recent efforts of the Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly passing a resolution to abolish the state’s legislative Council has put a question mark on the utility of having an upper house.

    Conclusion

    • The legislative Council has a weak and powerless position when compared to the legislative assembly and therefore the Council is described as a secondary chamber or costly ornamental luxury. 
    • The legislative councils could be made more representative like Rajya Sabha by including eminent personalities who have excelled in important fields.
    • Also, there is an urgent need of the hour that the legislative Council should have more power to make it a responsible body to take up the matters of development and other important issues on par with the legislative assembly.

    Source: TH