Powers and Functions of Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) in an Indian State

Functions of Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) in an Indian State

The lower chamber of the state legislature is known as the Legislative Assembly or Vidhan Sabha. In states with bicameral legislatures, the upper chamber is known as the Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad.

The total number of members of the Legislative Assemblies varies between 500 to 40. The members of the Legislative Assemblies or the M.L.A.’s are directly elected by the people on the basis of universal adult suffrage from constituencies of more or less equal votes. All citizens completing the age of 18 may vote in elections. Some seats in the Legislative Assembly are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The Governor may nominate a few Anglo-Indians to the Assembly if that community is not adequately represented.

To be member of the Legislative Assembly, a person must be a citizen of India, must be at least 25 years of age, and must have such other qualification as may be prescribed by the President.

The Legislative Assembly is elected for a period of 5 years. It may, however, be dissolved earlier and President’s rule may be imposed under Article 356.  Under Art icle352, during the pendency of a National Emergency, its life may be extended but not more than one year at a time.

Powers and Functions of Legislative Assembly in India

Since the Indian constitution institutes Parliamentary type of Governments in the states, the popularly elected Legislative Assemblies, are designed by the constitution as forums to provide legitimacy to the Governments of the states.

The most important function of the Legislative Assembly is to act as the highest law making organ of the state. In unicameral state Legislatures all bills on subjects in the state list are initiated and passed by this House before transmission to the Governor for his assent. In bicameral state Legislatures the Legislate Council cannot initiate money bills. Ordinary bills may be raised in either House.

Even through the Assembly does not have a direct share in the executive powers; it has a good degree of influence over the executive. The Chief Minister is usually the leader of the majority party or of the coalition forming the Government. Even in bicameral legislatures, the Chief Minister and other important ministers are members of the popularly elected chamber. The ministers are collectively responsible to the Assembly. The Ministers, including the Chief Minister remain in power only so long as they enjoy the confidence of the Legislative majority. In India’s unstable party system, M.L.A.’s often bargain for power or privilege in exchange for support in the Legislative Assembly.

The Assembly has powers over the state purse. The budget and indeed all money bills are initiated in and passed by the Assembly with the previous sanction of the Governor. The Council in bicameral State Legislatures may only delay a money bill by 14 days.

The Assembly has some other exclusive powers. The M.L.A.’s only take part in the election of the President. Only the Assembly takes part in constitution amendments where approval by the state legislatures is a constitutional requirement. The Assembly alone considers the reports of the Public Service Commission of the State and also of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The Assembly also suffers from some limitations. It has no power to initiate amendment proposal, the laws passed by the Assembly are subject to judicial review, and bills passed by the Assembly may be rejected or reserved for the President’s assent by the Governor.

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