West Bengal government to set up a Legislative Council
The West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad), as per a decision taken up at the recent Cabinet meeting.
For setting up the Council, a Bill has to be introduced in the Assembly and then a nod from the Governor is required. The Upper House existed till 1969.
What are the Legislative Councils, and why are they important?
India has a bicameral system i.e., two Houses of Parliament. At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly; that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council.
How is a legislative council created?
Under Article 169 of the constitution, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority.
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?
Appoint ECI members via collegium
A petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking the constitution of an independent collegium to appoint members of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
The petition was filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms.
Need for an independent collegium:
The petition states that the present process of appointing members to the Election Commission, solely by the executive, is incompatible with Article 324(2) of the Constitution.
The appointment of members of Election Commission on the “pick and choose” of the executive violates the very foundation for which it was created, thus, making the Commission a branch of executive.
Need of the hour:
Democracy is a facet of the basic structure of the constitution and in order to ensure free and fair elections and to maintain healthy democracy in our country, the Election Commission should be insulated from political and/or executive interference.
Recommendations given by various expert committees:
255th Law Commission Report recommended that the appointment of all the Election Commissioner should be made by the President in consultation with a three-member collegium or selection committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition of the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
4th Report submitted by the Second Administrative Reform Commission in January 2007 also recommended for the constitution of a neutral and independent collegium headed by the Prime Minister with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Law Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha as it’s members.
Dr. Dinesh Goswami Committee in its Report of May 1990 recommended for the effective consultation with neutral authorities like Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment in Election Commission.
Justice Tarkunde Committee in its Report of 1975 recommended that the members of Election Commission should be appointed by the President on the advice of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India.
Present System of Appointment:
Constitutional versus Executive Power of Appointment:
There is no prescribed procedure for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners as per the constitution.
At present, the President shall appoint the CEC and EC based on the recommendations made by the Prime Minister. Therefore, it is the executive power of the President to appoint CEC and ECs.
However, according to Article 324(5), the Parliament has the power to regulate the terms of conditions of service and tenure of ECs.
Why and how of creating a district?
Malerkotla recently became the 23rd district in Punjab.
How are new districts carved?
The power to create new districts or alter or abolish existing districts rests with the State governments.
This can either be done through an executive order or by passing a law in the State Assembly.
Many States prefer the executive route by simply issuing a notification in the official gazette.
How does it help?
States argue that smaller districts lead to better administration and governance. For example, in 2016, the Assam government issued a notification to upgrade the Majuli sub-division to Majuli district for “administrative expediency”.
Does the Central government have a role to play here?
The Centre has no role to play in the alteration of districts or creation of new ones. States are free to decide.
The Home Ministry comes into the picture when a State wants to change the name of a district or a railway station.
The State government’s request is sent to other departments and agencies such as the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Intelligence Bureau, Department of Posts, Geographical Survey of India Sciences and the Railway Ministry seeking clearance. A no-objection certificate may be issued after examining their replies.
What has been the trend?
According to the 2011 Census, there were 593 districts in the country.
The Census results showed that between 2001-2011, as many as 46 districts were created by States.
Though the 2021 Census is yet to happen, Know India, a website run by the Government of India, says currently there are 718 districts in the country.
The surge in number is also due to bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into A.P. and Telangana in 2014. Telangana at present has 33 districts and A.P. has 13 districts.