• Issues Analysis 360o

Council conundrum: on States having a Legislative Council


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 Why Some States in India have Bicameral Legislatures?

  • The Constitution of India had the provision of establishing bicameral legislatures in more populous states of the country.
  • Initially states such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab etc. were slated to have two houses. However, some of the states felt that Legislative Council would be an “unnecessary adjunct”.
  • The Constitution grants every state the right to create or abolish Legislative Council, which decides whether it will have a unicameral or bicameral legislature.
  • According to Article 169 of the Indian Constitution, the state legislative assembly has to pass a resolution demanding creation or abolition of the council.
  • As per Article 171 (1) of the Constitution, the total number of members shall not exceed one third of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly of that State.
  • The total number of members in the Legislative Council of a State shall in no case be less than 40.
  • The Parliament can abolish a Council or create it, if the Legislative Assembly of the concerned State passes a Resolution with a special majority.
  • The Act of Parliament is not to be deemed as amendment to Constitution and is passed with simple majority.

Present Context:

  • Odisha government is planning to create legislative council or upper house. If it does so successfully, it will be eighth such state having upper house.
  • The State Cabinet has approved a 49-member Legislative Council, accepting the report of a committee set up in 2015 to study the functioning of the second chamber in other States and make recommendations.

Composition of Legislative Council:

Article 171: Composition of the total number of members of the Legislative Council of a State

  1. One-third of total membership is elected by the electorate consisting of the members of local bodies like Municipalities, District Boards etc.
  2. One-third members are elected by the members of Legislative Assemblies.
  3. One-twelfth by the electorate of
  4. One-twelfth by the electorate consisting of not lower than secondary school teachers.
  5. One-sixth nominated by the Governor on the basis of their special knowledge, practical experience in Literature, science, art, co-operative movement and social service.

Supporting arguments for having a Bicameral Legislature:

  1. An Upper House provides a forum for academicians and intellectuals, who are arguably not suited for the rough and tumble of electoral politics.
  2. At least on paper, it provides a mechanism for a soberer and more considered appraisal of legislation that a State may pass.
  3. If there was any real benefit in having a Legislative Council, all States in the country should, and arguably would, have a second chamber.

Arguments against having a council in states:

  • Rather than fulfilling the lofty objective of getting intellectuals into the legislature, the forum is likely to be used to accommodate party functionaries who fail to get elected.
  • It is also an unnecessary drain on the exchequer.
  • Today, legislatures draw their talent both from the grassroots level and the higher echelons of learning. There are enough numbers of doctors, teachers and other professionals in most political parties today
  • If there was any real benefit in having a Legislative Council, all States in the country should, and arguably would have a second chamber
  • The fact that there are only seven such Councils suggests the lack of any real advantage.
  • Graduates are no longer a rare breed. Also, with dipping educational standards, graduate degree is no guarantee of any intellectual calibre.

Way forward: National policy is the need of the hour:

  • The Parliament of India has the power to set up or abolish the Legislative Council in the State. Moreover, the members of the Parishad are partly elected and partly nominated, wherein the partly elected members are chosen indirectly through proportional representation method.
  • Two Bills introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2013 for establishing Legislative Councils in Assam and Rajasthan are still pending.
  • A Parliamentary Committee that went into these Bills cleared the proposals, but struck a cautionary note.
  • There is need of a National Policy on having Upper House in State Legislatures. It also favoured a review of the provision of the law for Councils to have seats for graduates and teachers. Odisha’s proposal may give the country at large an opportunity to evolve a national consensus on Legislative Councils.
  • There is a need for wide range of debates and public and intellectual opinion to have an Upper House in all state legislatures. Legislative councils should be a responsible body that can also form their part in policies and programmes for the development of states.


Arpit Gupta By - Arpit Gupta
Posted On - 12/23/2018 6:52:42 AM

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