‘Abolition of Legislative Council’

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    5th Feb, 2020

Context

Andhra Pradesh has become the latest State to favour the alteration of the status quo regarding the Upper House, in an Assembly resolution for its Legislative Council’s abolition.

About

About India’s bicameral system:

  • India has a bicameral system i.e. two Houses of Parliament:
    • the upper House (Rajya Sabha)
    • the lower House in (Lok Sabha)
  • The Constitution of India (Article 168 & Article 169) provides for the bi-cameral legislature in certain States. 
    • Under Article 168, states can have either one or two Houses of the legislature.
    • Article 169 leaves the choice of having a Vidhan Parishad to individual states.
  • At the state level, the equivalent of the Rajya Sabha is the Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad) and that of Lok Sabha is the Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha).

Who decides on the bicameral system?

  • The Constitution of India does not force a bicameral legislature on states. It allows states the option of having a second House. 
  • The State Assembly has to pass a resolution for the creation of the Council by a majority of its total membership.
  • Thereafter, the Parliament (under Article 169) has the power to create or abolish the Legislative Council on the basis of a resolution adopted by the special majority in the Assembly of the concerned State. 

How many states have abolished the Legislative Council?

  • A second house—a state legislative council (Vidhan Parishad), with unelected members—has always been a point of contention throughout history.
  • Assamwas the first state to abolish its state legislative council. The state passed a resolution for the same in 1947.
  • After Assam, West Bengal had abolished its legislative council in 1969 and Punjab abolished it in 1970.
  • The Andhra Pradesh legislative council, with 58 members, was first abolished in 1985. It was revived in March 2007.
  • As of today, five states have Legislative Councils: Telangana, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Jammu and Kashmir had a Council until the state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.

The need of second house:

  • In Favour:
  • At state level, the second house of the legislature assumes significance for two main reasons:
    • The second house acts as a check on hasty actions by the popular elected House.
    • It ensures individuals who might not be cut out for the rough-and-tumble of direct elections too are able to contribute to the legislative process. 
  • Against:
  • The idea of Legislative Councils is centred on three broad arguments:
    • They can be used to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.
    • They can be used to delay progressive legislation.
    • They would strain state finances.

The reason behind the decision:

  • Since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the Council has had 58 members.
  • The Legislative Council is dominated by the opposition party with 32 members.
  • The ruling party has only nine members. With the numbers not expected to change for at least two more years, the government can have a tough time carrying out Legislative business.
  • The state government is already facing the heat with the Council trying to put spokes in its plan to create three capitals and pursue a decentralised development model for the State.
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