ROLE OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: THE ELITES HOUSE

INTRODUCTION

“A government of laws and not of men”. As we all are aware that the parliament is the supreme legislative body of India and coming to states the same role is played by the state legislative assembly, whose primary function like the parliament is to make laws.  In Indian Federal Structure Parliament consists of two houses where both the houses have their importance, the Lok Sabha being the representative of the people and the Rajya Sabha is the representative of the states. In the same way, the legislative council being the upper house of the state has a vital role to protect the rights of the people and even plays a suggestive decision-making role for the welfare of the people. Now ask a question to yourself of what significance[i] do legislative councils hold in this present-day world. No one has a vivid opinion on it as many are just ignorant of what role it plays.

The makers of our constitution had a view that the upper house of a state and the union can play a vital role in the Indian polity and the way forward.  As we see that the Upper House or the second chamber of the Parliament has completed a great milestone of conducting its 250th[ii] session since its inception and is best known for its functioning and contribution in the matters of the constitution and social legislation process. So, the point is whether[iii] all states need to have a second chamber keeping in mind the achievements of the Rajya Sabha in our federal process.

HOW IS THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL CREATED?

As discussed, India follows a Bicameral[iv] legislature both at the centre and state. The Legislative council in a popular sense called the Vidhan Parishad in India is considered to be a permanent Body that can be created or abolished with the passage of a special resolution by the State’s legislative assembly with the parliament’s ratification. It’s the house of elders which has been outlined by the makers of our constitution in Article 169[v] of the constitution of India. And there’s a mention that the constitution of India does not edict the states to form a legislative council and has left it to the discretion of the states to decide upon. At present in India, we have 6 states i.e., Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, who have their legislative councils out of the total 28 states. Its members are either indirectly elected or are nominated by the State Governor (through Gubernatorial Nominations) and the Vidhan Parishad being the permanent body, its members hold tenure of 6 years and one-third of the members retire after every two years as in the same way of that of the Rajya Sabha.

ROLE OF LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL (VIDHAN PARISHAD)

The Legislature is the organ of Government that must make laws and formulate the will of the state. It’s the law-making body that has a definite purpose to accomplish for the greater good of society. The supreme law of this land i.e., the constitution has given limited powers to the legislative council of the states. It has been given the function or a role to represent the people indirectly and at the same time hold the power to legislate and scrutinise the so-called actions of the executive of the state in the capacity of being the “house of review”.  To say the elders’s house can provide an alternative and compatible system of representation to that of the Legislative Assembly. And if we go through the history of our constitution-making process, i.e., while framing our constitution, two broad arguments were evolved regarding the second chamber of the parliament. The first argument was that the elder’s house can act as a checking mechanism for perfunctory legislative actions. And at the same time, the parliament can get members who can enrich the importance of legislature with their knowledge who either did not want to contest the elections or who could not win a general election. Legislative Council of states being the replica of the Rajya Sabha, told the same position concerning the views presented by the framers of our constitution.

A CRITICAL ANALYSIS

As History reflects, the matter of having the second chamber[vi] in the states has been a matter of greater controversy and the reasons are many. Uncertainty of the utility of the second chamber was the main reason for the constitution-makers to insert the provisions of creation and abolition. And with time the abolition[vii] and revival of the elder’s house in the state legislatures have become a matter of greater expediency, of which the passage of a resolution for the revival of the Legislative Council in the state of West Bengal[viii] is the earliest one. The other one being that of the state of Andhra Pradesh[ix] who passed a resolution to abolish its existing Council. And in this very process i.e., to revive or abolish the council, no proper consensus is made and this seems to be a major drawback for the legislature. It’s evident that the legislative council are known for performing a very minor role in the decision-making process, be that in the matter of creation of bills and the passage of the same, and has no role to ratify a constitutional amendment bill. It holds less privilege when compared to the Rajya Sabha, but to note it has the power of checks and balance and this is a feature of greater importance.  Even though at last its existence is based on the will and direction of the state legislatures.

It’s explicit that the political parties through the Legislative council go on to fulfil their so-called political considerations.  Everything has been created for a definite purpose as the same is about the Legislative council, and in this present-day world, a larger question which ponders is whether the Elders house is serving their intended purpose or not.  The Fact is that, many times the legislative council has been considered to rehabilitate the jobless politicians from the backdoor entrance who have lost their elections, and if this continues there may not be much meaning in the existence and relevance of the Legislative Council. Vidhan Parishad can be equivalent to the House of Elites for many reasons, accommodating both the jobless politician as discussed above and minorities, intellectuals.  The composition of the legislative council is oblivious that the majority of the members in the council are from the party that holds the power in the lower house of the state.  Majoritarianism with Nepotism is taking the seats of the council rather than that of the privileged intellectuals who can contribute their bit of knowledge and experience in the law-making process. Some criticise it as being unnecessary for a state, which even can raise the burden on the state’s budget and even cause delays in the passage of legislation. B.R Ambedkar who was the chairman of the constitution drafting committee even was not in favour of the elder’s house in states and he went on to just link the Council to that of Curate’s egg- Good only in parts. And yes, this is the apt answer about the Legislative council and its present-day role.

CONCLUSION

In the system of Democracy having a bicameral legislature provides a pathway to have proper deliberations on important legislation which are a must for the law-making process. At present, there are wide gaps in the law-making process mainly in the legislatures and with the need, these gaps can be done away with the help of the legislative council who can help the legislature in the so-called scrutiny process. If the elders’ house is treated with that par of the Rajya Sabha then definitely everyone can understand the importance of having it in the law-making process. Vidhan Parishad has a definite purpose to accomplish i.e., check against the hasty legislation, to give the unheard section of society the voice platform. In my view, the members of the elder’s house should act less politically and more as intellectual. The representation of Graduates, teachers, intellectuals in the field of art, literature, science and social service should increase than that of the political ones who have a greater hold in the council, where they can check-mate the radicalism of the lower house. Representation in the legislature cannot be seen just as a myth because it’s vital in any representative democracy. Legislatures should play an important role in the future building process of any state and should lead the path in creating history.

The Legislature should resemble the voice of the people because they are for the people, by the people, of the people. Hence, I support having a Deliberative legislature, be that the unicameral or the bicameral in our states for the greater good of the society. It is important that we have a check and balance system. A bicameral legislature provides a diversity of membership, leadership and outlook that can’t be achieved in a unicameral legislature. Relevance of upper house needs to be kept intact otherwise it’s just worthless of having it.

Author(s) Name: Rathod Arun Kumar (Student, Himachal Pradesh National Law University Shimla)

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References:

[i] https://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/editorials/2020/jan/25/is-a-legislative-council-needed-2094232.html

[ii] https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/250th-session-of-rajya-sabha

[iii] https://www.prsindia.org/media/articles-by-prs-team/rajya-sabha-every-state

[iv] https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/what-is-bicameral-legislature/article26763394.ece

 [v] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1295106/

[vi] https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/india-2/legislative-councils-in-indian-states-arguments-for-and-against/49288

[vii] https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/abolition-politics/article30668936.ece

[viii] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/west-bengal-assembly-passes-resolution-to-create-legislative-council-bjp-opposes-1824689-2021-07-06

[ix] https://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/editorials/2020/jan/25/is-a-legislative-council-needed-2094232.html

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