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The State Legislature

The State Legislatures consist of the Legislative Assembly i.e. Vidhan Sabha, the Legislative Council i e the Vidhan Parishad (only in five states) and the Governor. Most of the states in India have a unicameral legislature consisting of Vidhan Sabha and the Governor. Members of Vidhan Sabha are directly elected by the people on the basis of Universal Adult Franchise whereas the members of the Legislative Council are partly elected indirectly and partly nominated by the Governor for a fixed period of six years.

Like the Rajya Sabha at the Centre, the State Legislative Councils are also a permanent House since one third members retire every two years. Besides law making on the subjects in the State List and the Concurrent List, the State Legislature also performs financial and electoral functions and keeps a control over the Council of Ministers in the State. In the case of Constitutional break down, the President’s Rule can be imposed in the State on the advice of the Governor.

Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly)

Like the Lok Sabha, members of the Legislative Assemblies are directly elected by the people on the basis of Universal Adult Franchise for a five year term, Qualifications to become a member of Vidhan Sabha are also the same as those of Lok Sabha.

The number of members of Vidhan Sabha vary from State to State depending upon the population.

In any case, they cannot be more than 500 and less than 60 members. However, smaller States like Goa and Mizoram have been allowed to have an Assembly of 40 members. Uttar Pradesh has the largest Vidhan Sabha with 403 members. Some of the seats are reserved for members belonging to the Scheduled Casts and Scheduled Tribes. If inadequately represented, one member of the Anglo Indian Community is nominated by the Governor of the State.

As mentioned earlier, the normal term of the Vidhan Sabha is five years. But the Governor can dissolve it earlier if advised by the Chief Minister to do so. The Assembly may also be dissolved in case the Governor recomends Constitutional Emergency under Article 356.

Every Legislative Assembly elects its Speaker and Deputy Speaker from amongst its members who conduct the proceedings of the House. The function, of the Speaker of Lok Sabha and that of the Vidhan Sabha are almost the same. Both of them have a casting vote in case of tie.

Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad)

Like Rajya Sabha in the Union Legislature, Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad) is the Upper House of the State Legislature (Vidhan Mandal). As mentioned earlier, only five states in India have Legislative Council. It is the discretion of the State Government to have or not to have a Legislative Council. The creation or abolition of the Upper House can be finalised by the Parliament if a State Assembly passes a resolution to this effect by Special Majority which means by a majority of the total membership of the State Assembly and by a majority of not less than two third of the members present and voting.

The number of Vidhan Parishad members should not exceed one-third of the total members of Vidhan Sabha. However it cannot be less than 40. The Vidhan Parishad of Jammu and Kashmir is an exception and has 36 members only. The qualifications to become a member of the State Council are the same as those for Rajya Sabha membership. But the composition is slightly different. Its members are partly elected and partly nominated. The procedure of electing the members is the same as that of the Rajya Sabha members i.e. indirect election on the basis of the principle of proportional representation by means of Single Transferable Vote system.

The Composition of the Legislative Council

  1. One-third members of the Legislative Council are elected by the elected members of the Vidhan Sabha.
  2. One-third members are elected by the members of local bodies like municipalities.
  3. One-twelfth members are elected by the registered graduates in the State with a three year standing.
  4. One-twelfth members are elected by the teachers of secondary or higher level schools in the State.
  5. The remaining one-sixth members are nominated by the Governor on the basis of excellence in various fields.

Like Rajya Sabha, the State Legislative Council is never dissolved and is a permanent House. One third of its members retire every two years after enjoying a term of six years. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Council are elected by its members from amongst themselves.

Power and Functions of the State Legislature

Powers and functions of the State Legislature, whether unicameral or bicameral, are almost the same as those of the Union Parliament based on the division of power between the Union and the States. On account of the federal structure of the Indian Constitution, the State Legislatures do not have unlimited authority. As you have read earlier, the powers are divided between the Union and the State based on the Union List, State List and the Concurrent list. Let us study the powers of the State Legislature under the following heads:

Legislative Powers

Law making is the primary function of the State Legislature. It makes laws on 66 subjects included in the State List. It also has the right to make laws on the subjects mentioned in the Concurrent List but it should not contradict any law made by the Parliament on the same subject. In case of contradiction, the law made by the Central Government prevails.

The procedure of law making is the same as in Parliament both in the case of Ordinary Bills (Non-money bills) and the Money bills. Every bill passed by the State Legislature (One House if unicameral and both the Houses if bicameral) is sent to the Governor for his for his/her assent after which it becomes a law.

Financial Powers

The finances of the State are under the complete control of the State Legislature because no expenditure can be incurred without the sanction of the Legislature.

As explained in the case of the Union Parliament, a Money Bill can be introduced only in the Lower House i.e. the Legislative Assembly and that too with the prior permission of the Governor. Since 23 States of India have the Legislative Assembly only, after passing the bill, it is sent to the Governor for assent who has no option but to give consent. In case, the Legislature is bicameral and has a Legislative Council also, the bill passed by the Assembly is sent to the Council. Like Rajya Sabha at the Centre, the State Legislative Council has limited powers and the Bill has to be returned to the Lower House within 14 days.

Recommendations by the Council if any, are not binding on the Assembly. In either case the bill is deemed to have been passed by both the Houses and is sent to their Governor for signatures.

Control over the Executive

As a special feature of the Parliamentary form of government, the State Legislatures also keeps control over the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister.

Asking questions, adjournment motion, calling attention motion, no-confidence motion etc are some of the ways to keep the executive under control. In case a situation arises, the State Assembly can remove any individual minister or the entire Council of Ministers by adopting a vote of no-confidence against them.

Electoral Functions

The elected members of the Vidhan Sabha take part in the election of the President of India.

Constitutional Functions

You have already read about the procedure of amending the Indian Constitution. Some parts of the Constitution after being passed by the Parliament by a special majority require ratification by the State Legislatures of at least half the States. However, a constitutional amendment cannot be initiated in the State Legislature.

Limitations of the Powers of the State Legislature

The powers of the State Legislature are limited in many ways.

  • If any State law on a subject in the Concurrent List is in conflict with the Union law on the same subject; the law made by the Parliament shall prevail.
  • Some of the bills cannot be introduced in the State Legislature without seeking prior approval of the President of India. For example: A Bill regarding imposing restrictions on trade and commerce within the State or India-II with other States.
  • Before giving assent; the governor may send a bill passed by the Legislature for the consideration of the President. Such a Bill becomes a law only after the President gives his/her assent.
  • Be it the national emergency or the President’s Rule in a State, the Parliament may legislate on any subject of the State List:
  • The Parliament can also make laws on a subject of the State List if:
    1. two or more than two State Legislatures make a request to do so or
    2. Rajya Sabha passes a resolution by 2/3 majority to do so or
    3. a rule or law becomes essential for the performance of an international responsibility.

No law can be enacted by the State Legislature that may violate the Fundamental Rights of the people. Any law passed the State Legislature can be declared void, if found unconstitutional, by the Supreme Court or the High Court.