This article is written by Priyal Jain, a student of Amity Law School, Noida. The purpose of this article is to explain the concept of the legislative assembly in India, its composition, number of members, the election process, and other relevant topics related to the legislative assembly. 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Introduction 

The legislative assembly, also called the Vidhan sabha is analogous to Lok Sabha in the country, the legislative assembly functions in the same manner in a state as the Lok Sabha functions in the parliament. In 24 states and 3 union territories, having a unicameral legislature, the legislative assembly is the sole legislative body, and in 6 states, having a bicameral legislature, the legislative assembly is the lower house, with the upper house being the legislative council. 

Powers and functions of a legislative assembly

The main function of the legislative assembly is to make laws, however, it is confined only to the state list and concurrent list. According to Article 254 of the Indian Constitution, when there is a conflict between the centre and the state, the centre will prevail. The subjects of the state list, on which the parliament cannot legislate are- 

  • Irrigation,
  • Agriculture, 
  • Local governments,
  • Public health, 
  • Police, 
  • Prisons, 
  • Burial grounds,
  • Transport, 
  • State public services, 
  • Pilgrimage, etc.

Some other functions of the legislative assembly includes – punishment for contempt, selecting some of the members of the University Senate, considering the report of the Public Service Commission and the Accountant General, appointing various committees of the house, sending delegations to the union government to press the demands of the state.

Mainly, the role of the legislative assembly is to understand the spirit of existing laws, plan new laws, study, discuss and then support or oppose the enactment of new laws. The legislative assembly also approves finances and scrutinizes the government. The members of the legislative assembly have to take care of the constituency administration, and its needs like infrastructure, pension support, and others.

The council of ministers is collectively responsible to the legislative assembly and not to the legislative council, and the council of ministers remains in office as long as they enjoy the confidence of the legislative assembly. They will be forced to resign if a no-confidence motion is passed by the legislative assembly. The legislative assembly has fewer powers with respect to making amendments. The state legislative assembly has the power to abolish the legislative council by passing a resolution to that effect by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting. The legislative assembly has the power to override any recommendations or amendments made to the legislation by the legislative council. The legislative assembly has the power to consider reports presented by various agencies- like the Auditor-General, State Public Service Commission, and others. 

Financial functions – the procedure of passing certain bills

The money bill can be issued only in the legislative assembly, and not in the legislative council. The bill is introduced by a minister on the recommendations of the Governor, and cannot be introduced by a private member. After the money bill is passed by the state legislative assembly, it is sent to the legislative council, where it is kept for a maximum period of 14 days. In matters of ordinary bills, the decision of the legislative assembly is binding and there is no provision for a joint sitting of the legislative assembly and legislative council. However, the legislative council can delay the legislation by a maximum period of 4 months, if it is not satisfied with the decision of the legislative assembly. No money from the state treasury can be spent without the authorisation of the legislative assembly. The legislative assembly is required to pass the demand for grants and tax-raising proposals.

Legislative assembly during emergency situations

According to the provisions of Article 172(1) of the Constitution of India, when there is an emergency declared in the country, the duration of a state legislative assembly can be extended by the parliament for a period not exceeding one year at a time. In case of a state emergency under Article 356 of the Constitution, the state legislature ceases to function as it is dissolved by the President, and therefore the President can allow the parliament to make laws on behalf of the state legislature. During this time, the President may also ask the states to reserve all the money bills for the parliament to consider after they have been passed by the state legislature. The President can also ask the states to reduce the salaries and allowances of all or any class of persons in government service.

Limitations to powers of a legislative assembly

There are certain limitations to the powers of the state legislative assembly-

  • According to Article 213(1) of the Constitution, certain bills cannot be moved in the state legislature, without the prior consent of the “President of India”.
  • There are certain bills that cannot become operative only after being passed by the state legislature, but these bills also require the consent of the President after having been reserved for his consideration by the Governor of the state, only then do they become operative.
  • According to Article 249 of the Constitution, the Constitution allows the parliament to make laws on certain subjects included in the state list if the council of states is of the opinion that intervention of the parliament is necessary, subject to the national interest of the country.
  • According to Article 250 of the Constitution, the parliament can also legislate on the subjects mentioned in the state list, during the proclamation of an emergency, or during the proclamation of the breakdown of the constitutional machinery.
insolvency

Composition of a legislative assembly 

The composition of a legislative assembly is mentioned in Article 170 of the Indian Constitution. In most of the States, the legislature consists of the Governor and the legislative assembly (Vidhan Sabha), which means that these States have a unicameral legislature. In a few states, there are two houses of the legislature namely, the legislative assembly (Vidhan sabha) and legislative council (Vidhan Parishad) besides the Governor. Six States have the bicameral legislature, namely- Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. The legislative assembly is known as the lower House or popular House. People of the state who are eligible to cast a vote, vote to elect members of the state assembly. Members are elected from territorial constituencies. Every state is divided into as many (single member) constituencies as the number of members to be elected. A member of the legislative assembly is known as the MLA. The number of members elected depends on the population of the state of the elected members. However, the strength cannot be less than 60, and cannot be more than 500; i.e. the strength of the elected members varies from 60 to 500.

The members of Vidhan sabha elect their presiding officer. The presiding officer is known as the speaker. The speaker presides over the meetings of the house and conducts its proceedings. He maintains order in the house and allows the members to ask questions and speak. He puts bills and other measures to vote and announces the result of the voting. The speaker does not ordinarily vote at the time of voting. However, he may exercise a casting vote in case of a tie. The deputy speaker presides over the meeting during the absence of the speaker. He is also elected by the assembly from amongst its members. 

The elected members of the legislative assembly form part of the electoral college, and those elected members, in turn, elect the President. The members of Rajya Sabha representing the state are also elected by the legislative assembly. One-third of members of the legislative council is also elected by the legislative assembly. 

Exceptions to the general rule,

On the contrary, there are certain exceptions to this rule- there are a few states like Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim, the minimum strength of which is fixed at 30, the minimum strength for Mizoram is 40, and for Nagaland is 46. There is a reservation for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the legislative assembly under Article 332 of the Indian Constitution, except for the scheduled tribes in the tribal areas of Assam, Nagaland and Meghalaya. Also, as per Article 333, one member can be nominated by the Governor of the Anglo-Indian community if not adequately represented. In the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, 2 seats are reserved for the nominated women members. Also, 24 seats are reserved for the representatives from the region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. In the legislative assembly of Puducherry, which has only 33 seats, 3 seats are reserved for the members nominated by the union government of India, and 5 seats are reserved for candidates from the scheduled castes. 

Qualifications and disqualifications of members of a legislative assembly 

Qualifications

Qualifications to become a member of the legislative assembly are mentioned below:

  • The person must be a citizen of “India”.
  • The person must not be less than “25 years of age”.
  • The person must be a “voter from any of the constituencies of the state”.
  • The person must “not be convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for 2 years or more”.
  • The person may “not be a member of parliament and member of the state legislative council while contesting for the elections of the state legislative assembly”.

Disqualifications

Disqualifications from being elected as a member of the legislative assembly are mentioned below:

  • If any person holds an “office of profit under the Government of India, or any State Government, other than that of a Minister at the centre or any State or an office declared by a law of the State not to disqualify its holder”.
  • If any person is “mentally unstable” as declared by the Competent Court
  • If any person is “insolvent”.
  • If any person is “not an Indian citizen, or has voluntarily obtained the citizenship of a Foreign State, or is in alliance with a Foreign State”.
  • If any person is so “disqualified by or under any law made by parliament”.

According to Article 192 of the Constitution, if any question arises as to whether a member of a house of the legislature of a state has become subject to any of the disqualifications mentioned above, the concerned matter will then be transferred to the Governor of the state, who further has to act in accordance with the opinion of the Election Commission, whose decision is final and binding and cannot be judicially reviewed in the court. 

arbitration

The election process of a legislative assembly 

The elections of the legislative assembly are conducted by the Election Commission of India. The members of the legislative assembly are directly elected by the people on the basis of a universal adult franchise. The Governor issues a notification of the election according to the timeline of the election schedule finalised by the Election Commission. Generally, elections of state are conducted every five years, six years in the case of Jammu and Kashmir. Each legislative constituency of the state or union territory is represented by only one member of the legislative assembly, MLA. 

Process of election

The process of election initiates with the filing of nomination, followed by scrutiny, then withdrawal of nomination, and lastly publication of the final list. The polling is done on the due date and time as decided. Repolling can be ordered in some or all the booths of a constituency. Counting is done on the appointed date and the result is declared. A small percentage of the MLAs are nominated by the Governor of the State as well. The leader of the majority party (have more than 50% seats) becomes the Chief Minister of the state which is analogous to the Prime Minister at the centre. One member from the winning party is chosen as the speaker, who further has to resign from the primary membership of the party in order to be impartial towards anyone. One person is appointed as the Deputy Speaker, from the opposition party, who works in the absence of the speaker. Certain members of Sikkim and Nagaland can also be elected indirectly. 

The highest number of members in a Legislative Assembly is 403, which is the legislative assembly of Uttar Pradesh, and the lowest is of Puducherry with 30 members.

Difference between the legislative council and legislative assembly

Legislative assembly is more powerful than the legislative council. 

Basis of differentiation        Legislative assembly            Legislative council
Election procedure of the membersMembers of the legislative assembly are directly elected by the voters of the state by ballots in an election. The one-sixth members of the council are nominated by the Governor, and the remainder are elected by various categories of specially qualified voters-  artists, failed politicians, scientists, teachers, graduates, etc.
Presiding officerSpeaker is the presiding officer of the legislative assembly. The leader of the assembly takes over as the Chief Minister and selects his ministers who administer the State. Chairman is the presiding officer of the legislative council.
Tenure of membersThe tenure of the members of the assembly is for five years or till the next elections are held, whichever occurs earlier.The tenure of its members is six years. One-third of its members retire after every two years. The retiring members are eligible for re-election. In case of a vacancy arising out of resignation or by death, the election is held for the remaining period of such member’s tenure.
Minimum age The minimum age to become a member of the legislative assembly is 25 years. The minimum age to become a member of the legislative council is 30 years.
Functions The assembly is authorised to enact legislation. The members of the assembly can control the government by other means like asking questions and moving cut motions and adjournment motions. The assembly has thus better control over the government than the council.The legislative council has been formed to advise the government on important matters and is intended for the purpose of checking the legislative process of the state. The members of the council can discuss budgets and schemes to be implemented in the state and cannot vote or reject them but can offer suggestions on improvement or modification, for the consideration of the legislative assembly. The members of the legislative council cannot participate in the election of the President of the country. The legislative council can keep an eye on the hasty decisions made by the legislative assembly.
Number Every state has a legislative assembly or Vidhan sabha in India. At present, only 6 states- Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Telangana, consist of the legislative council or Vidhan Parishad.
Total number of members Under Article 170 of the Constitution, the maximum members of a legislative assembly cannot exceed 500, and the minimum members cannot be less than 60.
The members of the state legislative assembly are called  MLAs. 
Under Article 171 of the Constitution, the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall not exceed one-third of the total number of members in the legislative assembly, and shall not be less than 40.The members of the state legislative council are called MLCs. 
Establishment The establishment of the legislative assembly is defined in Article 168 of the Indian Constitution. It is not a permanent body and can be dissolved on certain occasions. It is analogous to the Lok Sabha of the parliament. The establishment of the legislative council is defined in Article 169 of the Indian Constitution. It is a permanent body that cannot be dissolved. It is like the Rajya Sabha- useful, somewhat important but not essential. 

Conclusion 

It can be concluded from the above-mentioned facts that the legislative assembly is the popularly elected chamber and it is the real centre of power in a state. The legislative assembly is always superior in power to the legislative council, and is the Lok Sabha of the state. In Chapter III of Part VI from Article 168 to Article 212 of the Indian Constitution, various provisions related to the state legislature are mentioned. The state legislature consists of the legislative assembly and the legislative council must meet at least twice a year and the interval between any two sessions must not be more than 6 months. There is no provision for a joint sitting of the assembly and the council. In case of a disagreement, the decision of the legislative assembly is deemed final. During a national emergency, the provisions for which are mentioned in Article 352 to Article 360, the parliament may extend the tenure of a state legislative assembly by one year, subject to a maximum period of six months after the emergency has ceased to operate. Also, at this time the parliament can make laws on the subjects of the state list. The legislative assembly is an important and essential feature of every state or union territory, without the existence of which it is difficult for the state to function efficiently. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Can a member of the legislative assembly take part in the Lok Sabha proceedings?

No, only the members of the Lok sabha are entitled to take part in its proceedings. However, according to Article 88 of the Indian Constitution, there are certain exceptions to this rule:

  • The Attorney General of India
  • The Union Ministers can take part in the Lok Sabha proceedings without being its members, but cannot cast votes.

How many legislative assemblies are there in India?

Every state has one legislative assembly, which means there are 29 legislative assemblies. Out of 7 Union Territories, only Delhi and Puducherry have their independent legislative assemblies. So, in total there exists 31 legislative assemblies in India. Jammu and Kashmir also have a separate Legislative Assembly.

Are the legislative assembly and the state assembly the same?

Yes, members of the legislative assembly are directly elected by the people of India, which is also known as the state assembly election. 

What will happen to the members of the legislative assembly if it is dissolved?

The membership becomes meaningless until further order of the President. 

What does a special majority mean in the state legislature?

As per the state legislature, in a special majority two- thirds of present and voting members must vote yes, and this number must also constitute the majority of the total capacity of membership of that house. 

Who decides on the disqualification of the members of the legislative assembly?

The speaker of the legislative assembly of the state decided on the disqualification of any member on account of defection. 

If the legislative assembly dissolves while any bill is pending, then what happens to the bill?

The bill lapses in case a legislative assembly dissolves, when a bill is pending. 

Who was the first Indian woman speaker of a state assembly?

Shanno Devi (born on June 1, 1901), a member of the Indian National Congress from the state of Punjab, was the first woman speaker of a state assembly in India.

References 


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