States and State Legislatures

Committees in state legislatures

The Governor of Rajasthan promulgated two Ordinances amending the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Indian Penal Code, 1860 applicable in Rajasthan on September 7. The Ordinances restrain any investigation to be conducted against a judge, magistrate or public servant without prior sanction of the government. The decision to grant sanction will have to be taken within six months, failing which such sanction will be deemed to have been granted.  The Ordinances also restrain any person from reporting on the individual in question until sanction for investigation is granted. Two Bills replacing these Ordinances were introduced in the Rajasthan Assembly by the state Home Minister last week, on October 23.[i] After introduction, the Bills were referred to a 15-member select committee comprising of legislators from the state Assembly, and headed by the Home Minister of Rajasthan. This blog examines the role of committees and some of the practices observed in state legislatures.

Purpose of committees in legislatures

In India, state legislatures sit for 31 days a year on an average.*  Several Bills are passed within a few days of their introduction. One of the primary responsibilities of the legislature is to hold the executive accountable, and examine potential laws. Due to paucity of time, it is difficult for the members go through all the bills and discuss them in detail. To address this issue, various committees are set up in Parliament and state assemblies where smaller group of members examine Bills in detail, and allow for an informed debate in the legislature. Apart from scrutinising legislation, committees also examine budgetary allocations for various departments and other policies of the government.  These mini-legislatures provide a forum for law makers to develop expertise, engage with citizens and seek inputs from stakeholders. Since these committees consist of members from different parties, they provide a platform for building consensus on various issues.

Figure 1: Average sitting days in a year (2012-16)
Sitting days in a year 1
Sources: Website of various state assemblies as on October 30, 2017.

Types of committees

There are broadly three types of committees: (i) Financial committees: These scrutinise the expenditure of the government and recommend efficient ways of spending funds (example: Public Accounts Committee and Estimates Committee), (ii) Department-Related Standing Committees (DRSC): These scrutinise performance of departments under a ministry, (iii) Other committees: These deal with day-to-day functioning of the legislature (example: Business Advisory Committee, Papers Laid, Rules, etc.)  While there are 3 financial committees and 24 department related committees in Parliament, the number of committees in state legislatures varies.  For example, Kerala has 14 subject committees examining all departments, while Delhi has seven standing committees scrutinising performance of various departments. [ii],[iii] However, not all states have a provision for specific DRSCs or subject committees.

Similar to Parliament, state legislatures also have a provision to form a select committee to examine a particular legislation or a subject.  Such a committee is disbanded after it presents a report with its findings or recommendations. Several Bills in states are referred to select committees. However, the practice in some state legislatures with respect to select committees deviate from those in the Parliament.

Independence of select committee from the executive

The rules in several states provide for the minister in-charge piloting the bill to be an ex-officio member of the select committee. These states include Rajasthan, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana. Moreover, in Manipur, the rules provide for the minister to be chairman of the select committee. Note that the minister is part of the executive.  His inclusion in the committee may be in conflict with the committee’s role of scrutinising the functioning of the executive.

The practice of including ministers in committees is in contrast with the protocol followed in Parliament where a minister is not part of any DRSC or select committee. As committees of the legislature hold the executive accountable, having a minister on the select committee undermines the role of legislature as an oversight mechanism. A minister, as a representative of the executive being part of such committees may impede the ability of committees to effectively hold the executive accountable.

The two Bills introduced in the Rajasthan Assembly last week were referred to a select committee headed by the Home Minister of the state.  There have been several instances in other state legislatures where the minister introducing a bill was chairman of the select committee examining it. In Goa, a bill empowering the government to acquire land for development of public services is headed by the Revenue Minister of the state.[iv] Similarly, in Arunachal Pradesh, the select committee examining a bill for establishment of a university was headed by the Education Minister.[v] In Maharashtra as well, the Education Minister was chairman of the select committee scrutinising a bill granting greater autonomy to state universities.[vi]  For rigorous scrutiny of legislation, it is essential that the committees are independent of the executive.

Strengthening state legislature committees [vii]

The functioning of committees in states can be strengthened in various ways. Some of these include:

(i) Examination of Bills by assembly committees: In the absence of DRSCs, most bills are passed without detailed scrutiny while some bills are occasionally referred to select committees. In Parliament, bills pertaining to a certain ministry are referred to the respective DRSCs for scrutiny. To strengthen legislatures, DRSCs must examine all bills introduced in the assembly.

(ii) Scrutiny of budgets: Several states do not have DRSCs to examine budgetary proposals. Some states like Goa, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have a budget committee to examine budget proposals. Post the 14th Finance commission, there is a higher devolution of funds to state governments from the centre.  With states increasingly spending more, it is necessary for them to have DRSCs that scrutinise the allocations and expenditures to various departments before they are approved by state assemblies.

 

*Based on the average sitting days for 18 state assemblies from 2012-2016.

[i] The Code of Criminal Procedure (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 http://www.rajassembly.nic.in/BillsPdf/Bill39-2017.pdf;The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017 http://www.rajassembly.nic.in/BillsPdf/Bill38-2017.pdf.

[ii] List of subject committees http://niyamasabha.org/codes/comm.htm.

[iii] Delhi Legislative Assembly National Capital Territory Of Delhi Composition Of House Committees
2017 – 2018, http://delhiassembly.nic.in/Committee/Committee_2017_2018.htm.

[iv] The Goa Requisition and Acquisition of Property Bill, 2017 http://www.goavidhansabha.gov.in/uploads/bills/468_draft_BN18OF2017-AI-REQUI.pdf.

[v] The Kameng Professional and Technical University Arunachal Pradesh Bill 2017 http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=oct1717/oth057.

[vi] Maharashtra Public Universities Bill, 2016 http://mls.org.in/pdf/university_bill_english.pdf.

[vii] Strengthening State Legislatures http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Conference%202016/Strengthening%20...

Legislative performance of State Assemblies

As the dust settles around the 16th Lok Sabha, attention must now shift to the state assemblies, some of which have been newly constituted like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and the few that will go into elections in the next few months like Maharashtra and Haryana. There are 30 state legislative assemblies not including the newly formed state of Seemandhara. In our federal structure, laws framed by the state assemblies are no less important and deserve the same diligence and debate as laws made by Parliament. A brief look in to the performance of some of our state assemblies reveals that these institutions which form the cornerstones of our democracy need some serious attention. State Assemblies: business hours The current Haryana Legislative Assembly that comes to the end of its five year term in October this year has held 10 sessions since 2009 till March 2014, meeting for a total of 54 days – an average of 11 days per year. In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 69 days each year from 2009 to 2014. Among state assemblies, only Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh sat for fewer days than Haryana. In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days per year, while Tamil Nadu Assembly sat for 44 days. In its previous term, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly sat for a total of 157 days – an average of 31 days each year. Similarly, the current Goa Legislative Assembly sat for 24 days in 2012 and for 39 days in 2013. Over the last 10 years, the Assembly sat for an average of 26 days a year.  It recorded the highest number of sitting days in the last 10 years, at 39 days. Law making in the states In most states, Bills are passed with little or no discussion. Most Bills are introduced and passed on the last day of each session, which gives Members hardly any opportunity to examine or discuss legislation in detail. Unlike Parliament, where most Bills are referred to a department related standing committee which studies the Bill in greater detail, in most states such committees are non-existent.  The exceptions are Kerala which has constituted subject committees for this purpose and states like Goa and Himachal Pradesh where Select Committees are constituted for important Bills. The current Haryana Assembly has passed 129 Bills, all of which were passed on the same day as they were introduced. Upto 23 Bills were passed on a single day, which left hardly any time for substantial discussion. In the twelfth Gujarat Assembly, over 90% of all Bills were passed on the same day as they were introduced. In the Budget Session of 2011, 31 Bills were passed of which 21 were introduced and passed within three sitting days. Of the 40 Bills passed by the Goa Assembly till May 2013, three Bills were referred to Select Committees. Excluding Appropriation Bills, the Assembly passed 32 Bills, which were taken up together for discussion and passing in five days. Almost all Bills were passed within three days of introduction. On average, each Bill was discussed for four minutes. In 2012, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed a total of 39 Bills, including Appropriation Bills.  Most Bills were passed on the same day they were introduced in the Assembly.  In 2011, a total of 23 Bills were passed. On average, five Members participated in the discussions on each Bill. In 2012, the Delhi Legislative Assembly passed 11 Bills. Only one of the 11 Bills was discussed for more than 10 minutes. The performance of the Chhattisgarh and Bihar Vidhan Sabhas follow the same pattern. Over the last few years, some assemblies such as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana have taken some positive steps which include setting up subject committees and permitting live telecast of Assembly proceedings. Every legislator- in Parliament and the states - is accountable to his voter. Weak democratic institutions deprive legislators of their right to oversee the government as enshrined in the Constitution. Inadequate number of sitting days, lack of discussion on Bills, and passing of the Budget and demands for grants without discussion are symptoms of institutional ennui and do not do justice to the enormous import of these legislative bodies. Serious thought and public debate is needed to reinvigorate these ‘temples of democracy’ and provide elected representatives with the opportunity to exercise their right to legislative scrutiny, hold government to account, and represent their constituents.

Brief overview of the performance of the 12th Haryana Legislative Assembly

The term of the 12th Haryana Legislative Assembly ends in October this year.  We look at the work done by the 12th Haryana Assembly during its term from 2009 to 2014 to assess its performance on metrics such as the number of sittings, members’ attendance, and legislative business. Performance of the Assembly Since the beginning of its tenure, which commenced in October 2009, the Assembly has held ten sessions. Till March 2014, the Assembly had met for a total of 54 days – an average of 11 days per year.  In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 69 days each year from 2009 to 2014.  Among state assemblies, only Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh sat for fewer days than Haryana. In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days per year , while Tamil Nadu Assembly sat for 44 days. sitting days haryana The average attendance among Haryana MLAs stood at 89% for the whole term, with six members registering 100% attendance.  

 Attendance haryana

  From the beginning of its term in 2009 till March 2014, the Assembly passed 129 Bills.  All Bills were discussed and passed on the same day as they were introduced. None of the Bills were referred to any Committee. Participation in the general discussion on the Budget has recovered since 2012, when the Budget was discussed for around three hours with eight Members participating.. In 2013, discussion took place for eight hours and forty minutes with 31 members participating. In 2014, the Assembly discussed the Budget for four hours and fifty minutes with 21 Members participating.

 Budget discussion

Key laws passed by the 12th Assembly include the Haryana State Commission for Women Bill, the Haryana Prohibition of Ragging in Educational Institution Bill and the Punjab Agricultural Produces Markets (Haryana Amendment) Bill.

Karnataka: Election trends and Assembly performance

Elections to the 14th Legislative Assembly of Karnataka are scheduled to be held on May 5, 2013. Of the 224 assembly constituencies that will go into polls, 36 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 15 for Scheduled Tribes. Voting will take place in 50,446 polling stations across Karnataka [1.  Election Commission India]. In this blog, we analyse electoral trends between 1989 and 2008 and the performance of the current Karnataka Assembly.

Figure 1: Electoral trends since 1989, source: Election Commission of India, PRS.

 

In the last elections, held in 2008, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government, winning 110 of the 226 seats in the Assembly. The BJP has steadily increased its seat share since 1989: it won four seats in 1989, 44 in 1999 and 79 in 2004. The Indian National Congress (INC) had a 179 seat majority in 1989 (79% of the assembly) which fell to 34 seats in 1994. The INC subsequently increased their tally from 65 seats in 2004 to 80 seats in 2008. However, the INC continued to have the highest share of votes polled (except in 1994) even as its share of seats decreased. The 1990s also saw the emergence of the Janata Dal (S) who won the 1994 elections with 115 seats. Janata Dal’s emergence is part of a broader theme of increased participation by regional parties in Karnataka. In 1989, 20 parties contested the elections, seven of which were national parties but in 2008, 30 parties contested, of which only five were national parties. Performance of the current Assembly As we approach the end of the term of the current Assembly, a brief look at its work from 2008 to 2013:

  • During its five-year-term, the Assembly sat for a total of 144 days, an average of 31 days each year. In comparison, the Lok Sabha in its current term sat for an average of 68 days per year. Among states, the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days, Haryana for 13 days and Rajasthan for 24 days, each year.
    Figure 2: Days of sitting - Karnataka assembly, source: RTI, PRS.

     

  •  Members of the Karnataka Assembly recorded an average attendance of 81 per cent for the whole term, broadly in line with the Lok Sabha attendance of 77 per cent. Nearly one in five members registered more than 90 per cent attendance. In comparison, members of the 11th Himachal Pradesh Assembly recorded an attendance of 95 per cent, while the attendance of the 12th Gujarat Assembly stood at 83 per cent.
  • Some of the significant Bills passed by the 14th Karnataka Assembly include the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Bill and the Karnataka Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Bill.  In 2012, the Assembly also passed the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation Bill.

Brief overview of the performance of the 12th Gujarat Legislative Assembly

Elections to the 13th Legislative Assembly of Gujarat are scheduled to be held in two phases on the 13th and 17th of December.  The BJP has been the dominant majority party in the Assembly since 1995.  The 2002 elections saw the largest victory for the party, winning 127 seats. The Congress last held power in Gujarat in 1985.  In the Assembly elections held for the the seventh Assembly, the Congress had a clear majority of 149 seats.  In 1990, the Janata Dal emerged as the largest party with 70 seats.  The BJP registered major gains in 1990, improving their tally of 11 seats in 1985 to 67 seats.  The Congress came third with 33 seats. The electoral trends over the last 22 years may be viewed here. In the current Assembly, 117 of the 182 seats are held by the BJP.  It is useful to look at the work done by the 12th Gujarat Assembly during its term from 2008 to 2012.  Here we look at key metrics like the number of days the assembly was in session, members’ attendance, and legislative business. Performance of the Assembly During its five year term, the assembly sat for a total of 157 days – an average of 31 days each year.  In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 66 days each year during the period 2008 to 2011.  In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days – highest among states - followed by Maharashtra (44).  However, the Gujarat Assembly sat for more number of days than the Haryana Assembly which sat for an average of 13 days and Rajasthan (24). The average attendance among Gujarat MLAs stood at 83% for the whole term, with two members registering 100% attendance. 87 Bills were passed by the Assembly since the beginning of its term in 2008 till September 2011.  Of these, 80 Bills i.e. over 90% of all Bills were passed on the same day as they were introduced.  None of the Bills were referred to any Committee.  In the Budget Session of 2011, 31 Bills were passed of which 21 were introduced and passed within three sitting days Amendments sought by the President and the Governor One of the significant laws passed by the 12th Assembly was the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2003 which was introduced and passed in July 2009.  However the Bill did not receive the Presidents Assent and was sent back to the Gujarat Assembly for amendments. In December 2009, the assembly passed the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill 2009 which sought to make voting compulsory in elections to local self-government bodies like municipal corporations and Panchayats.  The Gujarat governor returned the Bill for reconsideration in 2010.  It was re-introduced in the house in September 2010 without changes. Another Bill that was returned by the Governor was the Gujarat Regularisation of Unauthorised Development Bill which sought to regularise unauthorised construction on payment of an Impact Fee.  The Bill was passed by the Assembly in March 2011.  The Governor returned the Bill with a suggestion to include a provision to bar the regularisation of unauthorised construction beyond a specified date.  The Bill was re-introduced and passed with amendments by the Assembly in September 2011.

Maharashtra passes Bill to regulate property transactions

(Authored by Anil Nair) The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly recently passed the Maharashtra Housing (Regulation and Development) Bill.  This is the first such Bill to be passed by any state, which sets up a housing regulator to regulate property transactions.  The Bill seeks to set up a Housing Regulatory Authority to provide for relief to flat purchasers against sundry abuses, malpractices and difficulties related to the construction, sale, management and transfer of flats. According to news reports, the government felt that existing laws were not effective in protecting the interests of the flat purchasers and allowed the promoters to avoid statutory obligations imposed on them.  The Maharashtra Ownership Flats (Regulation of the promotion of construction, sale, management and transfer) Act, 1963 did not provide for an effective implementing arm for its various statutory provisions, as the buyers could only approach consumer forum or civil court for acts of omission or commission regarding its provisions. The current Bill passed by the Maharashtra Assembly proposes to repeal the 1963 Act.  As per the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, the Regulatory Authority will strive to encourage growth and promotion of a healthy, transparent, efficient and competitive real estate market.  The Bill specifies several conditions to be fulfilled by the developer to further transparency and fairness.  All projects proposing to develop more than four flats or of land area exceeding 250 square meters have to submit and update details of the project on the website of the Housing Regulatory Authority.  Developers would be required to disclose detailed information regarding the project including:

  • building-wise time schedule of completion of each phase of the project,
  • time schedule for connecting the project with the municipal services such as sewerage, water supply, electricity, drainage etc.,
  • nature of fixtures and fittings with regard to the flooring and sanitary fittings including the brand or the price range if the items are unbranded.

Failure to give possession of the flat on the agreed date would require repayment of the full amount paid by the buyer with interest.  The Authority would also be empowered to penalise the developer up to an amount of one crore rupees for non-compliance with provisions in the Bill.  Among other initiatives to assist the real estate industry, the Housing Regulatory Authority would promote rating of projects and of promoters, by the association of promoters, to improve the confidence level of investors and consumers through self-regulation. The full text of the Bill is available on the Government of Maharashtra website.

Can States levy entry tax?

The government of West Bengal has recently imposed a tax on the entry of goods into the local areas of the State.  According to the Finance Minister, this will help meet 'cost for facilitating trade and industry in the State'. Many States impose entry tax on goods coming into their areas of jurisdiction.  Entry Tax is imposed by States under the provisions of Entry 52 of the State List and Article 304 of the Indian Constitution.  These read as under: Entry 52, List II of the Seventh Schedule (State List) “Taxes on the entry of goods into a local area for consumption, use or sale therein.” Article 304: Restriction on trade, commerce and intercourse among States "Notwithstanding anything in article 301 or article 303, the Legislature of a State may by law – (a) impose on goods imported from other States or the Union territories any tax to which similar goods manufactured or produced in that State are subject, so, however, as not to discriminate between goods so imported and goods so manufactured or produced; and (b) impose such reasonable restrictions on the freedom of trade, commerce or intercourse with or within that State as may be required in the public interest: Provided that no Bill or amendment for the purposes of clause (b) shall be introduced or moved in the Legislature of a State without the previous sanction of the President." Are there any restrictions to the power of States to impose entry taxes? The use of the words 'so, however, as not to discriminate ' and 'reasonable restrictions' in the above articles constrain the power of States to some extent.  Several petitions challenging the imposition of entry taxes have been filed before courts.  In 2008, the Supreme Court has referred the entry tax issue to a larger bench.  This case is currently pending. What are the arguments in favour and against the imposition of such taxes? Arguments in favour of entry tax

  • Resource mobilization
  • Protection to state producers and manufactures

Arguments against entry tax

  • Upward pressure on prices
  • Delays and bottlenecks to movement of goods at state borders
  • Reduction in competition and consumer choice

In addition to the above, it can also be said that an entry tax goes against the principle envisaged under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.  The GST aims to create a common market throughout India without any taxes on inter-state movement of goods.  A Constitutional Amendment Bill to facilitate the implementation of GST is currently pending in Parliament.  

Assembly elections 2012 - Trends of the last 25 years

Over the next few weeks, Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in five States – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.  As parties prepare for the upcoming elections, we take a look at the electoral trends in these states over the past 25 years. We see that electoral fortunes in some states have fluctuated widely.  The electoral mandate in UP has varied over the last 25 years.  Five different parties -- Congress, Janata Dal, BJP, SP and BSP have been the single largest party in the Assembly at some point in time. In Punjab, the Akalis and the Congress have alternately controlled the government.  In Uttarakhand, the 2007 elections saw the BJP take over control from the Congress. In Manipur and Goa, Congress has been dominant player in elections.  In both states, it emerged as the single largest party in all but one election since 1984.  In Manipur, the Congress lost this status to the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), a splinter group of the Congress in 2000.  In Goa, it lost this status to BJP in 2002. The results of Uttar Pradesh elections will have the highest impact on national politics.  The state has 80 out of 543 elected seats in Lok Sabha and 31 out of 231 elected seats in Rajya Sabha.  The results could give an indication of the prospects for these parties in the next general elections, and may also change the composition of Rajya Sabha over the next few years.  Given that there are five parties (BSP, SP, BJP, Congress and RLD) with a significant base in the state, the possibilities of post poll arrangements are also wide open. For more details, see our Vital Stats.

Lessons from MLAs

Authored by Anil Nair and CV Madhukar PRS just concluded a workshop for MLAs from 50+ from more than a dozen states.  What an AMAZING experience this was, even though this is the sixth such workshop we have held in this past year! This three day workshop on 'Mastering the Budget' was designed to help MLAs understand how to work with budget documents and numbers, find trends, understand the most critical macro numbers to track, etc. The second day of the workshop was tailored to reflect on the big thematic issues that have an impact on state finances. The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, the Goods and Services Tax, the pattern of quantum of funds flow from the Centre to the state and local governments, the 13th Finance Commission, etc. The final day was devoted to doing an inter-state comparison of states on important budget parameters, and gleaning lessons from them. The idea for this budget workshop germinated at a previous workshop held at IIM Bangalore. The participating MLAs requested PRS to organise a special session on 'Mastering the Budget'. So this workshop was being organised as a result of their feedback. The choice of location was easy -- this was held at the National Institute for Public Finance and Policy in Delhi, which is amongst India's foremost institutions working on state budgets and public finance issues. Invitations were sent out to MLAs in several states. Responses started coming in within a few days, with about 70 confirmations. But there is always an uncertainty on the participation until the very last minute because elected politicians have immense demands on their time, at least some of which are unpredictable. So it was heartening to see that more than 50 MLAs came to the workshop representing 15 states -- Bihar, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Manipur. The participants ranged from first time MLAs (about 50%), to a sitting Minister, a sitting Speaker, former Ministers, and senior leaders of political parties from some states. But the best part about the interaction in this workshop was that even on seemingly complex issues being discussed in the classroom, the MLAs were not mere recipients of 'gyan' that was being dished out. They had important questions to raise, and well articulated points of disagreement with the faculty, and brought in practical perspectives that might not have otherwise come up in the discussions. They went beyond the scope of the workshop to engage the economists on discussions on subjects like FDI in retail, state of India’s economy… Based on our experience of several workshops with MLAs, we want to share some observations about the participating MLAs: -         There are MLAs in every state who want to understand substantive policy issues, and are willing to invest time and energy to do so. -         When the MLAs participate in these workshops, they choose to do so on their own, and are not compelled by anyone to do so. -         The sessions almost always begin and end on time, even in the freezing cold mornings in the Delhi winter. -         The MLAs are very engaged in the discussions, ask questions, and bring in their experiences into the classroom discussions. -         They keep partylines completely out of the substantive classroom discussions, and in the rare event that some new participant mentions anything partisan, other participants quickly ask him to avoid making any such mentions. In 2011, we have engaged with over 250 MLAs through these workshops and more. These workshops are just a starting point of what we hope will develop into a sustained, longer term engagement with MLAs on policy issues coming up in their states. In an important partnership with the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, PRS has already conducted two workshops  at the world class facilities at the ISB campus, and is planning to hold more in 2012. Just as PRS engages with about 300 MPs in Parliament, the hope is that more MLAs will be able to derive value from the work of PRS in the years to come, thereby making their decisions better informed. Some feedback from MLAs from our earlier workshops can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XlgKCp2bvs or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01kLLTVtJOU&feature=related or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA4NZqCj2xk&feature=related  

The Gujarat Lokayukta case

The Gujarat High Court is hearing an important case related to the appointment of the Lokayukta in Gujarat.  The issue is whether the Governor can appoint the Lokayukta at his discretion or whether appointment can be made only upon obtaining the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister. During the period 2006-2010, the Gujarat state government submitted names of two prospective appointees for the post of Lokayukta to the Governor.  But no appointment was made during this period.  On August 26, 2011 the Governor appointed retired judge R.A.Mehta as Lokayukta, whose name was not among those submitted by the state government.  The Gujarat state government moved the High Court to quash the appointment on the ground that the Governor made the appointment without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister. Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, provides in part that “the Governor shall by warrant under his hand and seal, appoint a person to be known as Lokayukta”.  The Governor acted under this section to make the appointment of Lokayukta.  However, the state government has argued that section 3 has to be understood in light of Article 163(1) of the Constitution.  Article 163(1) provides that the Governor shall be aided and advised in the exercise of his functions by a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head. Thus, as per this line of argument, the Governor violated the provision of Article 163(1) when she failed to take the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister before exercising the function of appointing the Lokayukta. At the time of writing this post, news reports suggested that the two judges hearing the case are divided over the issue.  It remains to be seen whether this issue will be referred to a larger bench.  The outcome of this case could have wider implications on the constitutional role of governors if it sets guideposts on the extent to which they act independent of the advice of the council of ministers.