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ASSEMBLY SITTINGS IN INDIA

30th July, 2022 Polity and Governance

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In News

  • Kerala is at the top spot in the ranking of states with the highest number of State assemblies sitting in a year.
    • Kerala assembly sitting 61 days in 2021.
  • The average number of State legislature sittings is lower than 20 sittings in 2021.
  • State Assembly of Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Delhi met for less than 10 days.
    • Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab were 17, 16 and 11, respectively.

 

State Legislative Assembly of India

  • The State Legislative Assembly, or Vidhan Sabha, is a legislative body in India's states and union territories.
    • Bicameral State legislatures with the upper house being State Legislative Council in 6 States, other States and UTs are Unicameral State Legislature with only a Lower house or Legislative assembly.
  • Each Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) is directly elected to serve a 5-year term.
  • The Constitution of India states that a State Legislative Assembly must have no less than 60 and no more than 500 members however an exception may be granted via an Act of Parliament as is the case in the states of Goa, Sikkim, Mizoram and the Union Territory of Puducherry which have fewer than 60 members.
  • A State Legislative Assembly may be dissolved:
    • During a State emergency.
    • By the Governor on request of the Chief Minister.
    • If a motion of no confidence is passed against the ruling majority party or coalition.
  • A State Legislative Assembly holds equal legislative power with the upper house of the state legislature, the State Legislative Council, except in the area of dissolution of state government and passing of money bills, in which case the State Legislative Assembly has the ultimate authority.
    • A money bill can only be introduced in the State Legislative Assembly. In bicameral jurisdictions, after it is passed in the State Legislative Assembly, it is sent to the State Legislative Council, where it can be kept for a maximum time of 14 days.
    • In matters related to ordinary bills, the will of the State Legislative Assembly prevails and there is no provision for joint sitting. In such cases, the State Legislative Council can delay the legislation by a maximum of 4 months (3 months in the first visit and 1 month in the second visit of the bill).

 

Concern

  • The number of state assembly sittings in India in recent times is extremely low.
  • Indian Constitution does not mention the minimum number of days that state assemblies must meet in a year. Constitution only mentioned that the gap between 2 sessions should not be more than 6 months.
    • Many State assemblies misuse this provision and their sessions last for only one to two days.
  • Less number of assembly sessions makes the legislative debates difficult and directly affect the quality of bills passed by the assemblies, which hurt the democratic setup of the nation.
  • A low number of sittings can’t hold government departments, ministers or MLAs accountable for their work and promises made on the floor of the assembly.

 

 

Way Forward

  • The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2000-02), headed by M.N. Venkatachaliah, had suggested that the Houses of State (/Union Territory) legislatures with less than 70 members, for example, Puducherry, should meet for at least 50 days a year and Houses with more than 70 members should meet at least 90 days.
  • Live telecast all proceedings of all state assemblies: It will ensure their performance is monitored by citizens, thereby improving the quality of legislation and debates on matters of public importance.
  • Citizens should collectively demand mandatory disclosure of the text of legislative debates and questions on assembly websites.
  • Need a constitutional amendment to fix the minimum number of days assemblies must sit in a year.
  • The state governments need to seriously look into how to make state assemblies more transparent and effective.

 

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