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Panel move on Upper House

Guwahati, Jan. 24: The parliamentary standing committee on law and justice will recommend making the proposed Assam Legislative Council a permanent body.

According to Article 169 of the Constitution, Parliament can create or abolish the Legislative Councils in states.

Shantaram Naik, the chairman of the standing committee, told reporters here today that it would make the recommendation before Parliament to ensure that the fate of the council did not depend on a change of guard at the state and Centre.

“We have recommended that the government should have a national policy for the second or upper chamber of the state legislature, so that it is not abolished by the successive government once created by its predecessor,” Naik said.

The Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad is the Upper House in the states that have a bicameral legislature.

As of now, six Indian states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh — have a Legislative Council.

The Legislative Councils were created by Parliament in these states on the request of the respective state governments.

Bills to create Legislative Councils in Assam and Rajasthan were introduced in Parliament recently and are pending with the standing committee.

Naik said there is a need to effect a constitutional amendment to make the Legislative Councils permanent bodies.

The Assam Legislative Assembly had passed a resolution demanding an Upper House in 2005 and 2010.

Political parties and groups are arguing that members of various communities and ethnic groups who could not be sent to the Assembly can be accommodated in the proposed council for a fair representation.

Assam had an Upper House which was abolished after Independence.

According to the Assam Legislative Council Bill, 2013, the proposed Upper House will have 42 members.

According to Article 171 of the Constitution, the total number of members in the Legislative Council of a state having such a house should not exceed one-third of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly of that state.

In case of Assam, the total number of MLAs is 126.

Naik said of the 42 members, members of Assam Legislative Assembly will elect 14, teachers will elect four, graduates will elect four and municipal councils, panchayati raj institutions and autonomous councils will elect 14.

According to Naik, there will be a one-time expenditure of Rs 69 crore to create infrastructure and other facilities for the proposed Assam Legislative Council.

Once the council is set up, there will be an expenditure of Rs 19 crore every year.

Naik, who visited the city along with other members of the standing committee to seek opinions of stakeholders on the Assam Legislative Council Bill, 2013, said there was an overwhelming response from different political parties and other social organisations towards creating the Upper House.

He said a few individuals and organisations have opposed the move, citing their own grounds.