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A Member of Legislative Assembly, or MLA, is a representative elected by the voters of an electoral district to the Legislature of a State in the Indianmarker system of government. Each state has between four and nine MLAs for every Member of Parliament (MP) that it has in the Lok Sabha.

A Member of Legislative Council, or MLC, is a representative indirectly elected through an electoral college to the Legislature of a State having a bicameral legislature.

State Legislature

The state legislature in Indian States is either bicameral or unicameral type. In most cases, states legislature is unicameral. In unicameral state legislature the (only) house is called Legislative Assembly.

In states where there are two houses there is a Legislative Council along with Legislative Assembly. In such a case, the Legislative Council is the Upper House, while Legislative Assembly is the Lower House of the State Legislature.

Governor is an integral part of the State Legislature.

The Legislative Assembly consists of not more than 500 members and not less than 60. The biggest state like Uttar Pradeshmarker has 425 members in its Assembly. States which have small population and are small in size have a provision for having even lesser number of members in the Legislative Assembly. Pondicherrymarker, Mizorammarker, Arunachal Pradeshmarker have only 30 members each. Sikkimmarker has 32 members. All members of the Legislative Assembly are elected on the basis of adult franchise, and one member is elected from one constituency. Just as the President has the power to nominate 2 Anglo Indians to the Lok Sabha, similarly, the Governor also has the power to nominate a certain number of members from the Anglo Indian community as he deems fit, if he is of the opinion that they are not adequately represented in the Assembly.

The Legislative Council consists of not more than 1/3rd of the total strength of the Legislative Assembly of the state and not less than 40. The members of the Legislative Council are elected as well as nominated. Broadly speaking, 5/6th of the total members of the Council are indirectly elected and 1/6th are nominated by the Governor. The composition is as follows:

i) 1/3 of the total members of the Council are elected by electorates consisting of members of local bodies such as corporations, municipalities and zila parishads.

ii) 1/3 are elected by members of Legislative Assembly from among the persons who are not members of the Assembly.

iii) 1/12 are elected by electorate consisting of persons who are graduates of three years standing, residing in that state.

iv) 1/12 are elected by electorates consisting of persons engaged for at least three years in teaching in educational institutions within the state, not lower in standard than secondary schools.

v) The remainder 1/6 are nominated by the Governor from persons having knowledge or practical experience in fields such as legislature, science, arts, co-operative movement and social service.

Qualification

The qualifications to be a member of the state Legislature are largely similar to the qualifications to be the members of Parliament. A person can become a member of the Legislative Assembly of the state if he or she isi) a citizen of India ii) not less than 25 years of age to be member of the Legislative Assembly and not less than 30 to be a member of the Legislative Council.

No person can become a member of the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council of any state, unless he himself is a voter from any constituency of the state. Those who cannot become members of Parliament can also not become members of state Legislature.

Term

The term of the Legislative Assembly is five years. But it may be dissolved even earlier than five years by the Governor on the request of Chief Minister. The term of the Legislative Assembly may be extended during an Emergency, but not more than six months at a time.

The Legislative Council is the Upper House in the State. Just like the Rajya Sabha it is a permanent House and cannot be dissolved. The term of each member is 6 years and 1/3rd members of the House retire after every two years.

Presiding officers

Similar to the Presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council also have Presiding Officers. The Legislative Assembly has a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker. They are elected from among the members of the House.

The Legislative Council has a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman who are elected in a similar fashion. The functions performed by these presiding officers are similar to the function of presiding officers of the two Houses of Parliament. The Speaker of the Assembly can decide whether a bill is a money bill or not. Presiding Officers of both the Houses have the right to exercise casting vote in case of tie.

Powers

The most important function of the Legislature is law making. The State Legislature has the power to make laws on all items on which Parliament cannot legislate. Some of these items are police, prisons, irrigation, agriculture, local governments, public health, pilgrimages, burial grounds etc. Some items on which both Parliament and states can make laws are education, marriage and divorce, forests, protection of wild animals and birds etc.

As regards Money Bill, the position is the same. Bills can originate only in the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Council can either pass the bill within 14 days from the date of the receipt of the Bill or suggest changes in it within 14 days. But these changes may or may not be accepted by the Assembly.

The State Legislature besides making laws also has one electoral power in electing the President of India. Elected members of the Legislative Assembly along with the elected members of Parliament are involved in this process.

We have seen that some parts of the Constitution can be amended by Parliament with the approval of half of State Legislatures. Thus the State legislatures take part in the process of amendment of our Constitution.

Ministers in the state governments are responsible to the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) of the state. Like Lok Sabha at the centre, state Assembly also keeps constant vigil over state's Council of Ministers. This is done through questions, supplementary questions and adjournment motions. The Assembly may force the Chief Minister and the Council of Minister to resign if it adopts a vote of no confidence against the government, or if a government proposal, bill or budget is rejected by the Assembly.

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