The Lower House
The Legislative Assembly consists of not more than 500 and not less than 60 members chosen by direct election form territorial constituencies in the state. For the purpose of election, each state shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it, as far as practicable, be throughout the state. At the end ot each decennial Census, the constituencies will be recasted to make the necessary adjustments to meet the variation in population.
Thus, the members of the Legislative Assembly are elected on the basis of universal adult franchise without any consideration of caste, creed and religion. There is, however, a provision for safeguarding the interests of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and Anglo Indian community. Some constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe and members belonging to these community can be elected from them. There is a provision in the constitution that when the Governor of a State feels that the Anglo-Indian community has not been given proper representation, he can nominate a fixed number of members belonging to that community in the State Assembly. The members of the Legislative Assembly are entitled to receive such salaries and allowances as may from time to time be determined by the legislature by law.
Functions and Powers of the Legislative Assembly
The Legislative Assembly is popular and more powerful chamber of the State Legislature. Assembly has the following important functions and power:
- It can make laws on any subject provided in the State List. It can also make a law on a subject of the Concurrent List in case it is not in conflict with a law already made by the Parliament
- It has control over the Council of Ministers. Its members may ask questions from the minister, introduce resolutions or motions, and may pass a vote of censure to dismiss the government. The Ministry is collectively responsible to the Assembly. The defeat of the Ministry in the Assembly amounts to the passing of a vote of no confidence against it.
- It controls the finances of the state. A money bill can originate in the Assembly and it is taken as passed by the Legislative Council after a lapse of 14 days after reference made to it by the Assembly. It may pass, reject the demands or reduce their amount implying adoption or rejection of the budget and thereby victory or defeat of the government. Thus, no tax can be imposed or withdrawn without the approval of the Legislative Assembly.
- It has constituent powers too. According to Article 368, a bill of constitutional amendment first passed by the Parliament shall be referred to the states for ratification. It is here that the Assembly has its role to play. It has to give its verdict by passing a resolution by its simple majority showing approval or disapproval of the said bill.
- It is also provided that the President shall refer to the Assembly of the concerned state a bill desiring alteration in its territory for eliciting its views in this regard before he recommends that such a bill be introduced in the Parliament.
- The Assembly also elects its own Speaker and Deputy Speaker and may remove them by a vote of no confidence. It takes part in the election of the President of India. It consider reports submitted by various independent agencies like the State Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, and others.
Speaker of Legislative Assembly
Every Legislative Assembly chooses two members of the Assembly to be the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker respectively whenever these offices become vacant. They vacate their offices if they cease to be the members of the Assembly. The Speaker or the Deputy Speaker as the case may be resigns his office by writing to the Deputy Speaker in the case of the Speaker and to the Speaker in the case of the Deputy Speaker. They may be removed from office by a resolution of the Assembly passed by a majority of all the then members of the Assembly. No resolution for the purpose of the removal of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker is moved unless at least 14 day notice is given of the intention to move such a resolution. While any resolution for the removal of the Speaker from the office is under consideration, the Speaker though he is present, will not preside over such a meeting.
The Presiding Officers are paid such salaries and allowances as are prescribed by the Legislature of the State by law. The main characteristics of this high office are dignity, independence and impartiality. The legislature is the pivot of a democratic system of Government and the Speaker is the pivot of the parliamentary machinery. He is vested with powers to ensure orderly discussion in the House, to enforce the rules of procedure, to control disorder and to take disciplinary action against members indulging in unruly behaviour.
The Presiding Officer should stand above party strife and away from stormy state politics to be able to command respect of all groups. Viewed in this perspective, one can appreciate the step taken by N. Sanjeeva Raddy, when he was Speaker of the Lok Sabha, who resigned from the Party to which he belonged. But most of the Speakers at the State did not severe their party connections. Some of them even joined the Ministries by resigning their office of Speaker and Deputy speaker. Persons who have ministerial ambitions cannot be expected to be completely impartial and free from party politics. The Speaker has not always lived upto these principles and in certain states they have acted in a patently partisan manner.
What are the Qualifications and Terms of the members of State Legislatures?
No person can be a member of both Houses of the State Legislature at the same time. Person holding office of profit under the Union or the State Government and persons convicted by the Court of election malpractices or other crimes are also not eligible for membership of the Legislature. A person is not qualified to become a member of the Legislature unless he is a citizen of India and makes and subscribes before some person authorised in that behalf by the Election Commission an oath or affirmation according to the form set out for the purpose.
The Legislative Council is a permanent body, not subject to dissolution. One-third of its members retire every two years, after completing the term of six years.
Every Legislative Assembly has a five years term from the date appointed for its first meeting unless dissolved earlier. The Assembly stands automatically dissolved after five years. The period of five years, may, while a proclamation of emergency is in operation, be extended by Parliament by law for a period not exceeding one year at a time, and not extending in any case beyond a period of six months after the proclamation has ceased to operate.
A person seeking election to the Legislative Council must have completed the age of 30 years, and possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed by the Parliament from time to time.
A person seeking election to the Legislative Assembly must be twenty five years old and posses such other qualification as may be prescribed in that behalf by or under any law made by Parliament.
Restriction on Powers of The State Legislatures
There are many restrictions on the powers of the state legislature which make them subservient to the will of the Parliament, despite the fact that the Constitution allots them a certain residue of authority that, just for some theoretical reasons, may be identified with their area of sovereignty. The restriction on the powers of the state legislatures are as follows:
- State legislatures can neither legislate on an item of the Union List nor a residuary subject.
- Though it can enact laws on a subject mentioned in the Concurrent List, it is Central law which shall prevail and to the extent to which the state law is violative of Central law it will be ultra vires or constitutional.
- Article 249 provides that the Rajya Sabha may pass a special resolution by a two thirds majority of members, present and voting, to transfer any item from the State List to the Union or Concurrent Lists for the period of one year on the plea that it is expedient in the national interest.
- There are some categories that require that a bill passed by the state legislature shall be reserved by the Governor for the consideration of the President, even though unanimously passed by the state legislature. Bill dealing with compulsory acquisition of private property, being derogatory to the powers of the High Court, or seeking imposition of tax on a commodity ‘essential’ by an act of Parliament, or any other bill likely to conflict with some Union law, already in force fall within this category.
- The state legislatures cannot override the veto of the President.
- There are some kinds of bills that cannot be introduced in the state legislatures without the prior permission of the President. Bills seeking to impose restrictions on trade, commerce or intercourse with other states or within the state fall within this category.
- The President is empowered to declare a states of emergency in the country without consulting the states. But once such an emergency has been declared, the Parliament is empowered to legislate on the subject mentioned in the State List. Thus, the position of the state legislatures, in practical terms, is like that of a local and vassal Parliament working under the over lordship of the Parliament of India.