Legislative Council

History of legislative councils in India:
  • Legislatures with two Houses (bicameral) have a long history in India.
  • The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms led to the formation of the Council of State at the national level in 1919.
  • Then the Government of India Act of 1935 set up bicameral legislatures in Indian provinces. It was under this law that a Legislative Council first started functioning in Bengal in 1937.
About Legislative Council:
  • India has a bicameral system i.e. two Houses of Parliament namely Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
  • At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly.
  • States can have a Legislative Council in addition to the Legislative Assembly under Article 169 of the Constitution.
  • Article 169 of the Constitution allows Parliament to create or abolish the council in a state with the following conditions:
    • If the legislative assembly of that state passes a resolution for the purpose by
      • a special majority of the total membership of the assembly and
      • a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the assembly present and voting.
  • Currently, six states (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka)  have a Legislative Council.
  • Members: Article 171 states that a legislative council cannot have more than 1/3rd of the total number of members in the legislative assembly. Also, it cannot have fewer than 40 members.
  • Election of Legislative Council:
    • 1/3rd of members are elected by the members of the Assembly.
    • 1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards, and other local authorities in the state.
    • 1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers.
    • 1/12th by registered graduates.
    • The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.
  • Tenure:
    • Legislative Council is a permanent House like the Rajya Sabha. Hence, it cannot be dissolved.
    • The tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council(MLC) is six years, with one-third of the members retiring every two years.
  • Powers of Legislative Council:
    • Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack the constitutional mandate to do so.
    • Legislative Assemblies also have the power to override suggestions/ amendments made to legislation by the Council.
    • While Rajya Sabha MPs can vote in the election of the President and Vice-President, members of Legislative Councils can’t.
    • Further, MLCs also can’t vote in the elections of Rajya Sabha members.
Why in News?
The West Bengal government has decided to set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad). West Bengal had a Legislative Council in existence till 1969 after which it was abolished.

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