Constitution Of India – The State Legislature
The Constitution provides for a legislature for every State in the Union (Article 168). In five of the States (viz. Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Bihar and Karnataka), the legislature is organized in two Houses, namely, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.
The remaining States have only Legislative Assemblies. The question of having one House or two Houses for State legislatures is still an open one as the Constitution empowers Parliament to make the necessary law to create or abolish Legislative Councils according to the wishes of individuals States.
The Assembly is composed of members chosen by direct election. The maximum and minimum membership is fixed at 500 and 600 respectively. However, the Assembly in Mizoram and Goa shall have only 40 members each. For the purposes of election, the State is divided into as many territorial constituencies as there are seats in the Assembly. At present, the number of voters in each constituency is around 1,00,000.
The basis of the composition of the Council is as follows:
- The total number of members in the Legislative Council should not exceed one-third of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly. But, in any case, it should not be less than forty.
- There are five different categories of representation to the Council. These are:
- One-third of the total membership to be elected by electorates consisting of members of self-governing local bodies like municipalities, district boards, etc., in the State.
- One-third to be elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly of the State.
- One-twelfth to be elected by electorates consisting of university graduates (of at least three years’ standing) or others recognized as possessing equivalent qualifications and who are residing in the State.
- One-twelfth to be elected by electorates consisting of secondary school teachers or those in higher educational institutions within the State with at least three years’ experience in teaching.
- The remainder to be nominated by the Governor on the basis of their special knowledge or practical experience in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement or social service.
- The election of the first four categories [2(a)-(d)] is to be held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
- Voting shall be by secret ballot.
- Parliament is empowered to make any change with regard to the nature of representation detailed above.
The normal life of the Assembly is of five years whereas the Council is a permanent body which renews one-third of its membership after every two years. In this respect it follows the pattern of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).
There is hardly any special qualification specified for election to the Legislative Council except one of age. As in the case of a member of the Council of States, the minimum age prescribed is thirty years.
The Assembly has two elected officers, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, to conduct its business. The position of these two officers in the conduct of the business of the House, and their powers and functions in the Assembly, are respectively the same as those of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha. They may be removed from office by a resolution of the Assembly supported by at least a majority of all the existing members of the Assembly. The Council has a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman, both elected by the Council, and they have the same powers and functions as their counterparts in the Assembly. They can also be removed from office by a resolution of the Council supported by a majority of the existing members in the Council at the time of passing such a resolution. The Constitution provides for each House of the State legislature a separate secretarial staff whose members are independent of the Executive in matters of recruitment and conditions of service.
Conduct of Business
The State legislature must meet at least twice a year and the interval between any two sessions should not be more than six months. Usually, a new session begins with an opening address by the Governor which outlines the policy of the State Government. The address is then subjected to a debate and finally voted upon in the form of a resolution expressing thanks to the Governor.
Every Bill, except Money Bill, may be introduced in either House of the legislature. The Bill is finally passed with its third reading. Then it goes to the Governor for his assent. But the Governor may send it back for reconsideration. When it is passed again by the legislature, the Governor cannot withhold his assent. But he may reserve it for the consideration of the President, who may ask the Governor to place it before the legislature for reconsideration. When it is passed again, with or without amendment, it goes to the President for his consideration. The President is not bound to give his assent even though the Bill has been reconsidered and passed for a second time by the State legislature.
Assembly Vs Council
A significant point of difference between the relationship of the two Houses of Parliament and that of the two Houses of the State legislature (wherever the two Houses exist) is the comparatively less important role which the Legislative Council plays in contrast to that of the Council of States. The Council of States has, excepting in the field of Money Bills, co-equal powers with the House in all legislative matters. When there is an irreconcilable conflict between the two, the deadlock is resolved in a joint sitting of the two Houses. In the State legislature, on the contrary, the Council is designed to play a definitely inferior role.
The functions of the Legislative Council are of an advisory nature only. When a Bill goes to the Council for the first time from the Assembly, the Council has four alternative courses of action:
- It may reject the Bill;
- It may amend the Bill;
- It may take no action on it (but when three months have elapsed since its receipt by the Council and the Council does not inform the Assembly as to what action it has taken on the Bill, it is deemed to have been rejected by the Council); and
- It may pass the Bill as sent by the Assembly.
In the first three cases, the Assembly takes up the consideration of the Bill for a second time. It may or may not accept the amendments made by the Council and pass the Bill. It now goes for the second time to the Council which can adopt any of the above alternative courses of action except that it can delay the Bill only for a month instead of the three months in the first instance. The Assembly acts again according to the same procedure as before if the Council does not again with it. Thus, only two times the Bill travels from the Assembly to the Council and the latter has only the power of a suspensory veto, the first time for a period of three months and the second time for a month. These provisions clearly establish the absolute superiority of the Assembly over the Council. In respect of Money Bills, the powers of the State Assembly are the same as those of the Lok Sabha. There is also a special procedure prescribed for financial matters on the pattern that obtains in Parliament.
Prof. (Dr.) M. V. Pylee