Ø The West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution to set up Legislative Council with a two-thirds majority. While 196 favoured, 69 opposed the resolution moved by Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Government of west bengal Partha Chatterjee under Article 169.
Ø The move to give the state a bicameral legislature came 52 years after the state assembly voted to abolish it. But whether Bengal finally gets a legislative council or not will depend entirely on Parliament’s approval.
Ø Article 169 of the Constitution empowers the Legislative Assembly to create or abolish a Legislative Council by passing a resolution. The resolution has to be
passed by two-thirds of the Assembly members. Then a Bill to this effect has to be passed by Parliament.
Ø Strength of the house: As per article 171 clause (1) of the Indian Constitution, the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall not exceed one third of the total number of the members in the legislative Assembly of that state and the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall in no case be less than 40.
How are members of the Council elected?
1/3rd of members are elected by members of the Assembly.
1/3rd by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and other local authorities in the state.
1/12th by an electorate consisting of teachers.
1/12th by registered graduates.
The remaining members are nominated by the Governor from among those who have distinguished themselves in literature, science, art, the cooperative movement, and social service.
Ø Currently, six states — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh (The Bill for abolishing the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council has not yet been introduced in Parliament), Telangana and Karnataka — have a Legislative Council. The setting up of a second chamber is not exclusively in the hands of the state government. The central government also has to pilot a Bill in Parliament. This issue could, therefore, lead to another potential flash point between the state and the Centre.
Ø History of Legislative Council in India: Legislatures with two Houses (bicameral) have a long history in India. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms led to the formation of the Council of State at the national level in 1919. Then the Government of India Act of 1935 set up bicameral legislatures in Indian provinces. It was under this law that a Legislative Council first started functioning in Bengal in 1937.
Ø During the framing of the Constitution, there was disagreement in the Constituent Assembly on having a second chamber in states. The arguments in support of Rajya Sabha — that a second chamber acts as a check on hasty legislation and brings diverse voices into legislatures — did not cut ice with many Constituent Assembly members when it came to the states.
Ø The framers of the Constitution provided that in the beginning, the states of Bihar, Bombay, Madras, Punjab, the United Provinces and West Bengal would have a
Legislative Council. Then they gave states the option of abolishing an existing second chamber or setting up a new one by passing a resolution in their Legislative Assembly. The Constitution also gave the Legislative Assembly the power to overrule the Council if there was a disagreement between them on a law. The Constitution also capped the membership of the council to one-third of the popularly elected Legislative Assembly.