New Delhi: Results of the Maharashtra Legislative Council (MLC) elections were declared Friday, and the ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition has won four out of the six seats. The BJP won only one seat, while an Independent candidate gained victory in the remaining seat.
The polls were held in three graduates’, two teachers’ and one local body constituency on 1 December.
ThePrint explains the composition of legislative councils, their functions, the nature of the constituencies and the eligibility of voters.
What is a legislative council
India has a bicameral system, i.e. two Houses of Parliament. While at the central government level there is the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, at the state level there is the Vidhan Sabha or legislative assembly and the Vidhan Parishad or legislative council.
At present, six states have a legislative council — Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
While legislative assembly members are elected directly by the people, legislative council members are elected by the legislative assembly members and a few other stakeholders, as well as nominated by the governor.
However, in comparison to the Rajya Sabha, legislative councils have very limited powers. For instance, the legislative assembly can reject any amendment to non-money bills suggested by the legislative council.
In case of money bills, Article 198 of the Constitution allows the legislative council to make its recommendations for amendments within 14 days of receiving the bill. However, the legislative assembly could accept or reject these recommendations.
If the legislative council does not revert within 14 days, the money bill is deemed to have been passed by both houses.
What is the composition of a legislative council
The total number of members in any legislative council may vary. But Article 171 puts a lower limit of 40 and an upper limit of one third of the total membership of the assembly of a state, on the number of members a legislative council can have.
As for the composition of members, here is the math — 1/3rd of the members are elected by the local bodies like a municipality or other local authorities, 1/12th are elected by graduates, 1/12th are elected by teachers, 1/3rd are elected by members of the legislative assembly, and 1/6th of the members are nominated by the governor.
According to Article 171, members who are nominated by the governor shall be people who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.
The legislative council elects its chairman and deputy chairman from among its members. Each of these members need to be an Indian citizen, who is at least 30 years old.
All members enjoy a tenure of six years, but 1/3rd of legislative council members retire every two years, like in the Rajya Sabha.
How are these elections conducted
Article 171(4) says that members to be elected to a legislative council are to be chosen from the constituencies as prescribed by the Parliament. Article 171 makes it clear that there are three types of legislative council constituencies — local authorities’ constituency, graduates’ constituency and teachers’ constituency.
For instance, in the case of MLC, 30 members are elected by members of the legislative assembly, seven are elected from seven graduates’ constituencies, seven members from seven teachers’ constituencies, 22 members from 21 local body constituencies and 12 members are nominated by the governor.
The election to these constituencies is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.
Who can vote
In the graduates’ constituencies, people who have been graduates from any university in India for at least three years can vote. Those who have qualifications equivalent to that of a graduate for at least three years can also vote.
Voters need to submit documentary proof of having such an educational qualification to the electoral registration officer or the assistant electoral registration officer concerned. A copy of the degree or mark-sheet attested by a gazetted officer is normally considered as adequate documentary proof.
According to Article 171 and Section 27 of the Representation of The People Act 1950, in teachers’ constituencies, people who have been teachers at a secondary school or above for three years, in the past six years, within a state, can vote.
A certificate by the head of the teaching institution is normally considered adequate documentary proof. In case of multiple institutions where a person may have worked, usually a certificate from the head of each of these institutions is required.
In case of graduates as well as teachers, they should be ‘ordinarily resident’ in their constituencies.
In the local authorities’ constituency, members of local authorities exercising jurisdiction in any place or area within the limits of that constituency, as specified in the 1950 Act, are eligible to register as voters.
The 1950 Act mentions these authorities in its 4th schedule. For instance, while it includes municipalities, cantonment boards and zilla parishad for Maharashtra, for Uttar Pradesh it includes municipal corporations, municipal councils, zila parishads, nagar panchayats, kshettra panchayats and cantonment boards.
Can a legislative assembly be abolished
Article 169 of the Constitution says that Parliament can abolish or create a legislative council for any state. This can be done by making a law for this, after the legislative assembly of the state passes a resolution for such an abolition or creation of the legislative council.
The legislative assembly needs to pass such a resolution by a majority of its total membership and by a majority of not less than two third of the members of the assembly present and voting. The option to have a second house is, therefore, left to the state legislative assemblies, subject to Parliamentary approval.
For instance, in January this year, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution to abolish the state’s legislative council, after the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which is in majority in the council, blocked the contentious Capital Decentralisation Bill from passing and had referred it to a select committee for review. However, no law was passed by the Parliament after this, to give effect to the resolution.
The parliamentary panel that examined Rajasthan’s bill for creation of a legislative council had suggested that a national policy for creation and abolition of councils be put in place so that it is not left to the “whims and fancy” of the governments.