Legislative Council in India

Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad is the upper house in bicameral legislatures in some states of India. While most states have unicameral legislature with only legislative assembly, currently, seven states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh have legislative council. Further, Parliament has also cleared formation of Legislative Council Rajasthan and Assam.

Strength of the Legislative Council

Total Number of the Legislative Council should not exceed the 1/3rd of the total number of members of the Legislative assembly, but it should not be less than 40 (Article 171). However, Jammu & Kashmir is an exception to this where the upper house has strength of 36 only. This is because; J & K assembly is created as per the J & K constitution and Part VI is not applicable to Jammu & Kashmir.

Representatives in the Legislative Council

In legislative Council, there are 5 different categories of representation.

  • 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.
  • 1/3rd members are elected by the members of the Legislative assembly of the State
  • 1/12th members are elected by an electorate of University Graduates.
  • 1/12th members are elected by the electorate consisting of the secondary school teachers (3 year experience)
  • 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.

For the first 4 categories mentioned above, the election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote and secret ballot method. The above representation can be changed by parliament of India by law.

Eligibility to become a Member of Legislative Council (MLC)

To be eligible for membership of the Legislative council, a person

  • Must be citizen of India
  • Must have completed the age of 30 years
  • Must possess such other qualifications as prescribed by the parliament by law.

The member should not hold the office of the profit. Should not be of unsound mind and should not be an undischarged insolvent.

Duration of Legislative Councils

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

Who decides whether the state should be unicameral or bicameral?

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, Indian Constitution does not adhere to the principle of bicameralism in 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 bicameral legislature in the states as a superfluous idea and a body which 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 legislative assembly of the state itself.

But it does not mean that legislative assembly can itself create a legislative council. The constitution of India has full provisions about the creation of 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 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 majority of the strength of the house and 2/3rd majority of the 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 assented by the President also.

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