State Legislature in India

Every State has its Legislature. In some of the States the Legislature is bicameral i.e. has two houses. In most of the States it is unicameral i.e. has only one house. The Governor is an integral part of the State Legislature. The unicameral legislature has the Legislative Assembly and the bicameral has the Legislative Assembly being its Lower House and the Legislative Council the Upper House.

At present only Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have bicameral legislatures and the remaining States have unicameral legislatures.

Composition of Legislative Assembly

The Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) is the real legislature even in those States that have bicameral legislatures. According to the Constitution of India, a State Legislative Assembly shall not have more than 500 members and not less than 60 members. However, very small States like Goa, Sikkim and Mizoram have been allowed to have less than 60 members.

Seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly. If the Governor feels that the Anglo-Indian Community is not adequately represented, he or she may nominate one person of that community in the State Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly is an elected body. Its members, M. L. As. are elected by the people based on the principle of universal adult franchise.

There are certain qualifications prescribed by the Constitution for being elected as an M. L. A. The candidate must:

  • be a citizen of India
  • have attained the age of 25 years
  • have his or her name in the voters’ list
  • not hold any office of profit
  • not be a government servant

The tenure of the Vidhan Sabha is of five years. However, the Governor may dissolve the Assembly earlier on the advice of the Chief Minister. Similarly the Assembly may be suspended or dissolved when President’s Rule is imposed in a State. During a national Emergency, the Parliament may extend the term of Legislative Assemblies for a period not exceeding one year at a time.

Composition of Legislative Council

The upper chamber of the State Legislature i.e. the Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad shall not have more than one third of the total membership of the State Legislative Assembly but not less than 40. The Legislative Council in Jammu & Kashmir has 36 members as an exception. The members of the Legislative Council are partly elected indirectly and partly nominated.

The composition of the Legislative Council is:

  • One-third members are elected by the members of local bodies i.e. Municipalities, District Boards and others in the State
  • Another one-third members are elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly
  • One-twelfth members are elected by the electorate consisting of graduates of the State of not less than three years standing
  • Another one-twelfth are elected by the electorate consisting of teachers having teaching experience of at least three years in the educational institutions within
    the State, but these institutions must not be lower in standard than secondary schools
  • The remaining one-sixth members are nominated by the Governor of the State

The Vidhan Parishad is a permanent house, and hence it is not dissolved. Members are elected or nominated for a period of six years. One-third of its members retire after every two years. The retiring members are eligible for re-election. The qualifications for becoming members of the Legislative Council are similar to those for the members of the Legislative Assembly. However, the minimum age in case of Legislative Assembly is 25 years whereas for the Council it is 30 years.

The State Legislature meets twice a year at least and the interval between two sessions cannot be more than six months. The members of Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad elect their respective Presiding Officers, as well as Speaker and Deputy Speakers, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman. The business of the two houses is conducted by their respective Presiding Officers who also maintain discipline and order in the houses.

Functions of the State Legislature

The State Legislature performs the following categories of functions:

1. Legislative Functions

The Assembly has the sole right to legislate. All the laws must be passed by it. Where there is a bicameral legislature, the ordinary Bills can be introduced in any of the Houses. A Bill passed by the Legislative Assembly is sent to the Legislative Council which has to pass it or to return it with recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. If the Legislative Assembly passes that Bill once again either with recommendations of the Council or without those, it shall be deemed to have been passed by both the Houses.

As regards, Money Bills, these can be introduced only in the Legislative Assembly. After the Assembly passes the Money Bill, it goes to the Legislative Council which has to pass it or return the Bill to the Assembly with its recommendations within 14 days of the receipt of the Bill. Even if the Assembly rejects the recommendations of the Council, it will be deemed to have been passed by both the Houses.

Once the Bill is passed by the Legislature, it is sent to the Governor for his or her assent. He or She cannot withhold the assent on the Money Bill but can send back an ordinary bill for reconsideration or can reserve any of the bills for consideration by the President.

2. Control over the Executive

The State Legislature keeps control over the executive. The Council of Ministers is responsible to Vidhan Sabha collectively. It remains in office so long as it enjoys the confidence of the House. The Council of Ministers is removed, if the Vidhan Sabha adopts a motion of no-confidence against it. Moreover, The State Legislature keeps checks on the government by asking questions and supplementary questions, moving adjournment motions and calling attention notices.

3. Electoral Functions

The elected members of the Legislative Assembly are members of the Electoral College for the election of the President of India. The members of the Vidhan Sabha also elect the members of the Rajya Sabha from their respective States. Moreover, they elect one-third members of the Legislative Council of their own State.

4. Functions related to Constitutional Amendments

There are important functions of the State Legislature related to the amendment of the Constitution. A constitutional amendment requires the support of a special majority of each House of the Parliament as well as ratification by not less than half of the States where the State Legislatures ratify the amendments.