Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Council conundrum: on States having a Legislative Council

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Constitutional articles related to Legislative council

Mains level: Debate surrounding the establishment of legislative councils in states


Context

Odisha’s plan to have a legislative council

  1. Odisha wants to join the group of States that have an Upper House
  2. The State Cabinet has approved a 49-member Legislative Council after accepting the report of a committee set up in 2015 to study the functioning of the second chamber in other States and make recommendations

The process of setting up a state council

  1. Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority
  2. Thereafter, Parliament has to enact a law to create it

Advantages of having an Upper House

  1. An Upper House provides a forum for academicians and intellectuals, who are arguably not suited for the rough and tumble of electoral politics
  2. It also provides a mechanism for a more sober and considered appraisal of legislation that a State may pass

Arguments against having a council in states

  1. Rather than fulfilling the lofty objective of getting intellectuals into the legislature, the forum is likely to be used to accommodate party functionaries who fail to get elected
  2. It is also an unnecessary drain on the exchequer
  3. Today, legislatures draw their talent both from the grassroots level and the higher echelons of learning. There are enough numbers of doctors, teachers and other professionals in most political parties today
  4. If there was any real benefit in having a Legislative Council, all States in the country should, and arguably would have a second chamber
  5. The fact that there are only seven such Councils suggests the lack of any real advantage

Comparison with Rajya Sabha

  1. The Rajya Sabha’s represents the States rather than electoral constituencies
  2. It is also a restraining force against the dominance of elected majorities in legislative matters

Way Forward

  1. Legislative Councils are subject to varied and inconclusive discussions around their creation, revival and abolishment
  2. Given all this, Odisha’s proposal may give the country at large an opportunity to evolve a national consensus on Legislative Councils
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