Thursday, May 6, 2010

Parliament nod for revival of Legislative Council in TN

Resolution for revival of Upper House put to vote

R.K. Radhakrishnan

Speaker took decision after Opposition pressed for a division

CHENNAI: When Assembly Speaker R. Avudaiappan called for a vote after the Opposition pressed for a division on support to a resolution for the revival of the Upper House, it marked a first for the 13th Assembly: it was a rare instance of physical enumeration of votes in the House.

All Bills, demand for grants or resolutions are approved in the Assembly by a majority, but this is usually a voice vote. In a typical voice vote, the Speaker calls for members who support the motion to say “yes” and those who do not, to say “no.” The “Ayes” is always a vociferous – indicating their numerical strength – and hence the Speaker rules that the Bill or demand or resolution is passed.

This resolution, seeking the revival of the Upper House is different. It had to be approved by two-thirds majority in the House where the DMK has only 100 members (including the Speaker). There are 36 Congress members and 17 from the PMK. The DMK has been sailing along comfortably because of the unquestioned support of the Congress, which, in turn, benefits from the unquestioned support of the DMK at the Centre.

First the Speaker, assisted by the Assembly secretary, divided the House into four quarters, depending on the seating of the members -- from 1 to 41, 55 to 115, 116-210 and 211 to 234. Then, the secretary asked for those in support to rise in each of the sections. The stand of MLAs was recorded and announced.

Even as the voting process began, all visitors were asked to leave. The Press, officials connected with the Assembly duties, and Rajya Sabha MP, Kanimozhi, were allowed to remain.

The Speaker later clarified that MPs could be present since they were elected representatives.

On an earlier occasion in the 13th Assembly, the AIADMK had moved a no-confidence motion against the Speaker. This did not result in a division as after a discussion with the Deputy Speaker in the Chair, the House, by a voice-vote affirmed its faith in the Speaker.

The Assembly secretariat confirmed that there was no situation wherein anyone pressed for a division in the five year period from 2001 to 2006. The AIADMK was in power between 2001 and 2006 and before that from 1991 to 1996. In both these periods it had a huge majority (132 in the 12th Assembly and 164 in 10th Assembly).

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Cabinet clears State Legislative Council proposal

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared the proposal of the Tamil Nadu government to revive the State Legislative Council. Disclosing this, official sources said a Bill in this regard is likely be introduced in Parliament on Wednesday. The State had a bicameral legislature since 1937.

A State government resolution seeking to abolish the Legislative Council was moved and adopted by the State Assembly on May 14, 1986.

Thereafter, a Bill titled Tamil Nadu Legislative Council (Abolition) Bill, 1986 was passed by Parliament and received the assent of the President on August 30 the same year. The legislation came into force two months later, on November 1.


Elders pass Tamil Nadu Council Bill


Amidst opposition by the Left Parties and the AIADMK, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed a Bill proposing to create a 78-member Legislative Council for Tamil Nadu, 24 years after it was abolished.

Not part of the original schedule of business, the Bill was introduced in the afternoon and brought up for discussion and passing later in the evening even as Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony waited in vain to make their statements. Three listed Bills too had to make way for the Bill to provide for the creation of a Legislative Council for Tamil Nadu.

In fact, so keen was the government to get the Bill passed that the day saw the list of business being issued four times. The “List of Business'' and the “Revised List of Business'' did not mention the Bill. A supplementary issued later in the day mentioned the government's intention to simply introduce the Bill. This was followed by a supplementary to the supplementary which stated that the Bill would also be moved and passed. The Union Cabinet had cleared the proposal barely 24 hours earlier.

‘Holistic discussion'

Replying to the 90-minute discussion which mostly saw Members from Tamil Nadu taking part, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily conceded the need for a holistic discussion on the issue but felt the House should approve this particular Bill as it had been approved by a State legislature.

Opening the discussion and supporting the Bill, Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) favoured an all-party discussion on the issue in view of the fact that the fate of the Legislative Councils in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh has been subject to the whims of the parties ruling the two States.

“There is no rationale, no principle. It should not be left to the likes and dislikes of the ruling party. Is it a casual matter?'' he wanted to know while calling for deliberations on Article 168 of the Constitution which provides for the setting up of bicameral legislatures in states.

While Congress and DMK Members wanted the Bill to be passed, it was left to the Left Parties and the AIADMK to mount an opposition.

T.K. Rangarajan (CPI-M) wondered at the urgency behind getting the Bill passed and felt this was being done only to suit “a United Progressive Alliance partner.'' With Tamil Nadu scheduled to go to polls next year, Mr. Rangarajan felt it would have been prudent to wait for the people's verdict.

V. Maitreyan (AIADMK) pointed out that the government had “bulldozed'' all other items listed earlier in the day which showed its helplessness. “Instead of pleasing your ally, you should have tried to please 50 crore women by getting the Women's Reservation Bill passed,'' he added.

D. Raja (CPI) said his party was not in favour of again creating a Legislative Council in Tamil Nadu. He also felt the government had adopted a wrong precedent to get the Bill passed. He agreed with Mr. Naidu on the need to address the larger issue of having Upper Houses in States.


Parliament nod for revival of Legislative Council in TN


The Hindu The stage is set for the revival of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Council, with the Lok Sabha on Thursday approving a Bill in this regard.

The stage is set for the revival of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Council, with the Lok Sabha on Thursday approving a Bill in this regard.

The AIADMK, which is in the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, opposed the Bill and walked out of the Lok Sabha along with the Left parties, which too are against the revival of the legislative council in the State.

The Rajya Sabha had passed the Bill on Wednesday, within 24 hours of the Union Cabinet approving the measure.

The Tamil Nadu Assembly had passed a resolution in this regard by a two-thirds majority on April 12 as the first step towards the Legislative Council’s revival.

The Tamil Nadu Legislative Council Bill, moved by Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily in the Lok Sabha, provided for an Upper House with 78 seats.

In 1986, when AIADMK was in power with late M.G. Ramachandran as Chief Minister, the State Assembly had resolved to abolish the Legislative Council.

Defending the Centre’s decision, Mr. Moily said there was “no hurry” in getting the Bill passed in Parliament as alleged by parties such as the AIADMK, the CPI(M) and the CPI opposing the revival of the Legislative Council.

Responding to members’ query as to why resolutions of Punjab and Assam assemblies had not been taken up, Mr. Moily said no other resolution passed by any State assembly for setting up of a Legislative Council was pending with the Centre as of today.

“The Punjab government has in its last communication in 2002 stated that there is no need for a Legislative Council, as it would be a financial burden on the small State. Assam has not responded to the Legislation Department’s frequent reminders on taking their resolutions forward,” he said.

Supporting DMK member T.R. Baalu’s claim that the Council was being revived in accordance with his party’s election manifesto in 2006, the Law Minister said, “In a democracy, political will of the people is reflected by the party that comes to power with a majority.”


Another milestone in legislative history


For Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, the opening of the complex right on target constitutes a major achievement.

The inauguration of the Assembly-Secretariat complex on the Omandurar Government Estate in the heart of the State capital of Chennai marks another milestone in the history of the elected legislature of Tamil Nadu.

The origins of the legislature can be traced back to the Indian Councils Act, 1861. The law restored the legislative power taken away by the Charter Act of 1833. The legislature of the Madras Presidency, which then comprised the present area of Tamil Nadu and parts of what are now the States of Orissa, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, was given the power to make laws for the “peace and good government.”

The Provincial Legislative Council was constituted. It consisted of the Advocate General and four to eight ad hoc members nominated by the Governor to the Executive Council. At least half the members were to be non-officials, nominated for two years. The Legislative Council could not interfere with the laws passed by the Central Legislature. All Bills passed by the Provincial Councils required the assent of the Governor-General. Even after that, they could be disallowed by the Queen, to whom they had to be referred. Though the Council was a mere advisory committee for the government in its legislative work, one positive feature was that the public came to know of what went on in the Council, which was till then not possible.

As a result of the Minto-Morley Reforms, a package of constitutional concessions was formulated through the Indian Councils Act, 1909. This raised the strength of the Council from 20 to 50. Elections, though not direct, were introduced.

With nationalist sentiment gaining strength, the British enacted the Government of India Act of 1919, also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. The membership of the Madras Legislative Council went up to 127 — it was the country's biggest body of its kind at that time. The number of elected members was 98; the remaining members belonged to the Executive Council or were nominated non-official members. The life of each House of the Council was three years.

On January 8, 1921, the inaugural meeting of the Council took place at Fort St. George. Four days later, the Council was formally inaugurated by the Duke of Connaught, an uncle of George V, Emperor of England. At the inaugural meeting, the Council adopted a resolution to grant women the voting right.

The next important stage in the evolution of the legislature was the enactment of the Government of India Act, 1935. The Act established a bi-cameral Legislature in the Province of Madras, as it was then called, with the Legislative Assembly consisting of 215 members and the Legislative Council 56 members.The Legislative Council was to be a permanent body with one-third of its members retiring every three years. In the Assembly, there were 116 members from the general seats and 30 from those set aside for the Scheduled Castes. Representation was given to different groups such as Muslims, Christians and landholders. There were eight women members, too.

The first House of the Assembly was constituted in July 1937 after the general elections. C. Rajagopalachari became the Premier of the Presidency and headed the Congress Ministry. His Ministry resigned in 1939 following differences between the Congress party and the British government over the Second World War. The legislature ceased to function.

In March 1946, general elections were held all over the country. T. Prakasam, famously called Andhra Kesari, became the Chief Minister. Between March 1947 and April 1952, Omandur P. Ramaswamy Reddiar and P.S. Kumaraswamy Raja held the post.

Two years after the Constitution of India came into force in January 1950, elections to the first legislature of Madras State were held. The then Composite Madras Assembly consisted of 375 seats. These were filled by means of elections in 309 constituencies — 243 single-member constituencies, 62 double-member constituencies (one seat in each reserved for Scheduled Castes) and four more double-member constituencies (in which one seat was reserved for Scheduled Tribes). As three seats were uncontested, elections were held only in the remaining 372 seats. One member was nominated by the Governor to represent Anglo-Indians.

In April 1952, Rajaji, who had by then held the posts of Governor-General and West Bengal Governor, succeeded Kumaraswamy Raja who lost in the general elections. Two years later, K. Kamaraj became the Chief Minister and he held the post till 1963.

The strength of the Assembly went down to 231 with the formation of the Andhra State in October 1953 and the merger of Kannada-speaking area of Bellary district with the then Mysore State. After the States Re-organisation Act came into force in November 1956, the number of members was further reduced to 190. After Kanyakumari district and Shencottah taluk were added to the State, the strength was raised to 205. Three years later, one more constituency was added to Tamil Nadu, taking the strength to 206.

In 1961, all 38 double-member constituencies were abolished and an equal number of constituencies was reserved for SC and STs. Through the Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies Order of 1965, the number of territorial constituencies was increased to 234. Of these, 42 seats were reserved for the Scheduled Castes and two for the Scheduled Tribes, besides one member to be nominated from the Anglo-Indian community. Since then, there has been no change in the strength of the Assembly.(Under the latest delimitation order of 2007, the number of seats earmarked for the SCs and the STs has not been disturbed.)

M. Bakthavatsalam succeeded Kamaraj in October 1963; since then there has not been a Congress Chief Minister in the State. In the historic Assembly elections of 1967, the 18-year-old Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam under the leadership of C.N. Annadurai was swept to power.

M. Karunanidhi, who became Chief Minister in February 1969, remained in power till January 1976 when the Union government dismissed his government and dissolved the Assembly. After a brief period of President's Rule, M.G. Ramachandran, the founder of the AIADMK, became the Chief Minister after his party secured a majority in the 1977 elections.

In February 1980, his government was dismissed and the State had another stint of President's Rule. Ramachandran came back to power in June that year after the AIADMK emerged successful in the general elections.

After his demise in December 1987, his widow Janaki Ramachandran held the post of Chief Minister for 24 days. A spell of President's Rule followed.

The Legislative Council, which was part of the State legislature since 1937, was abolished with effect from November 1986. In May that year, the Assembly adopted a resolution seeking to abolish the Upper House. Subsequently, Parliament adopted the Tamil Nadu Legislative Council (Abolition) Bill, which got presidential assent in August 1986.

In 1989 and 1996, the Assembly adopted resolutions to revive the Upper House but these efforts did not fructify. In the 1989 Assembly elections, the DMK staged a historic comeback and Mr. Karunanidhi became Chief Minister after a gap of 13 years.

Two years later, his government was dismissed again. In the 1991 Assembly polls, the AIADMK was returned to power and Jayalalithaa became the Chief Minister. Five years later, Mr. Karunanidhi was sworn in Chief Minister for the fourth time. In 2001, it was the turn of the AIADMK to stage a comeback. Ms. Jayalalithaa was Chief Minister for most of the term. O. Panneerselvam held the post for about five months. The 2006 elections saw the DMK coming back to power. Mr Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister for the fifth time.


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