The Madhya Pradesh government has indicated that it plans to initiate steps towards creation of a Legislative Council. Not all states have two Houses. Which are the ones that do, and why is a second House needed?
Why a second House
Just as Parliament has two Houses, so can the states, if they choose to. Article 71 of the Constitution provides for the option of a state to have a Legislative Council in addition to its Legislative Assembly. As in Rajya Sabha, members of a Legislative Council are not directly elected by voters.
Opinion in the Constituent Assembly was divided on the idea. Among the arguments in its favour, a second House can help check hasty actions by the directly elected House, and also enable non-elected individuals to contribute to the legislative process. The arguments against the idea: a Legislative Council can be used to delay legislation, and to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.
Under Article 169, a Legislative Council can be formed “if the Legislative Assembly of the State passes a resolution to that effect by a majority of the total membership of the Assembly and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present and voting”. Parliament can then pass a law to this effect.
States with LCs
Currently, six states have Legislative Councils (see box). Jammu and Kashmir too had one, until the state was bifurcated into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
Tamil Nadu’s then DMK government had passed a law to set up a Council but the subsequent AIADMK government withdrew it after coming to power in 2010. Andhra Pradesh’s Legislative Council, set up in 1958, was abolished in 1985, then reconstituted in 2007. The Odisha Assembly recently passed a resolution for a Legislative Council. Proposals to create Councils in Rajasthan and Assam are pending in Parliament; the PRS Legislative Research website lists the status of both Bill as pending.
Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the Legislative Council of a state shall not have more than one-third of the number of MLAs of the state, and not less than 40 members. In Madhya Pradesh, which has 230 MLAs, the proposed Legislative Council can have at most 76 members. As with Rajya Sabha MPs, the tenure of a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) is six years, with one-third of members retiring every two years.
One-third of the MLCs are elected by the state’s MLAs, another one-third by a special electorate comprising sitting members of local governments such as municipalities and district boards, 1/12th by an electorate of teachers and another 1/12th by registered graduates. The remaining members are appointed by the Governor for distinguished services in various fields.
LC vis-à-vis Rajya Sabha
The legislative power of the Councils is limited. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack a constitutional mandate to do so; Assemblies can override suggestions/amendments made to a legislation by the Council. Again, unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, MLCs cannot vote in elections for the President and Vice President. The Vice President is the Rajya Sabha Chairperson; an MLC is the Council Chairperson.
What next in MP
Having promised a Legislative Council for Madhya Pradesh in its election manifesto, the ruling Congress is working on a resolution that will be presented in the next Assembly session. Rajendra Singh, chairman of the Congress manifesto committee in 2018, said the party has discussed the issue and is serious about constituting a second House.
A senior bureaucrat in the Parliamentary Affairs Department said the proposal is under consideration but it would be too early to give a timeline.