Rule 71, Rule 197 and the capital controversy in Andhra Pradesh Legislature

By Prof. Nageshwar K  Published on  22 Jan 2020 11:03 AM GMT
Rule 71, Rule 197 and the capital controversy in Andhra Pradesh Legislature

Hyderabad: The opposition Telugu Desam triggered a political storm by invoking Rule 71 of legislative Council Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business to express its disapproval for YS Jaganmohan Reddy government’s three capitals policy. In the process, the TDP suffered a political jolt by losing two of its MLCs who voted in favour of the government policy and the other two legislators were conspicuously absent for voting and one more MLC resigning on the eve of the Council taking up the matter.

Yet, the opposition which was conscious of such a possibility chose to counter the government’s policy relocating the capital.

The TDP knows pretty well that it cannot stall the shift of capital as the ruling YSR Congress has a formidable majority in the Legislative Assembly that can override the decision of the Council in the ultimate event. But, the idea of the opposition TDP was to spring a surprise and send a strong political message that it did what it could to stall the three capital plan. Therefore, it was more of optics than of any political significance.

The Rule of 71 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council empowers a member to express his/her disapproval on any policy of the government. The TDP insisted that the debate under Rule 71 should be taken up before the bill to this effect passed by the legislative Assembly comes up for consideration.

The YSR Congress, on the other hand, termed the Chairman’s decision to allow debate and voting under Rule 71 as erroneous.

The political strategy of the opposition TDP is to delay the passage of the bill as long as it could so that it can pursue the ongoing agitation for saving Amravati with greater vigour.

But, what did the opposition gain by invoking Rule 71? Instead of allowing the bill for consideration and thereby defeating it as it has the majority in the upper House.

The TDP proved that the government lacks a majority in the Council, the fact that is well known by its present composition and hardly needs any further evidence. It intends to delay the passage of the bill. But, it can’t do beyond a point given the Constitutional scheme of things. If the Legislative Council rejects any bill sent by the Assembly for the second time, the Assembly can pass the bill ignoring the opinion of the upper House.

Rule 197 of the Council business procedures clearly state this. The opposition headed by the former speaker in the Legislative Council is not without this understanding. Yet, he chose to stall the bill for a day. This is nothing but sheer hypocrisy on the part of the opposition TDP.

The Chairman of the Legislative Council has erred in his decisions as he chooses to take up the same matter presented to him in the form of a resolution under Rule 71 rather than the bill passed by the Lower House. It is of common knowledge that the legislative business should precede and prevail over any other business unless the House adopts the adjournment motion to suspend all the business at its disposal. The Chairman has created a wrong legislative precedent by pandering to the wishes of the party that sent him to this august position.

The opposition has the opportunity to do everything it did on Rule 71 even if the bill is taken up. It can oppose the three capitals policy during the debate and vote against it. In fact, defeating the bill on the floor of the House cannot be a less effective move than adopting a resolution disapproving the policy of the government. Taking up the matter through both Rule 71 and the bill is simply a redundant exercise and waste of the valuable time of the august house.

The opposition should be wary of the fact that in the Constitutional scheme of things the Legislative Council has no powers to stall a bill passed by Assembly beyond a period of three months in the first instance and for another month if it comes back to it the second time.

Rule 197 of the Council procedures clearly state the restrictions on powers of Legislative Council

“If after a bill has been passed by Legislative Assembly of a state having a Legislative Council and transmitted to the Legislative Council

(a) The bill is rejected by the Council; or

(b) more than three months elapsed from the date on which the bill is laid before the Council without the bill being passed by it; or

(c) the bill is passed by the Council with amendments to which the Legislative Assembly does not agree ;

the Legislative Assembly may pass the bill again in the same or in any subsequent session with or without such amendments, if any, as have been made suggested or agreed to by the Legislative Council and then transmit the bill as so passed to the Legislative Council .

(2) If after a bill has been so passed for the second time by the Legislative Assembly and transmitted to the Legislative Council -

(a) the bill is rejected by the Council; or

(b) more than one month elapses from the date on which the bill is laid before the Council without the bill being passed or

(c) the bill is passed by the Council with amendments to which the Legislative Assembly does not agree ;

the bill shall be deemed to have been passed by both the houses of the Legislature of the State in the form in which it was passed by the Legislative Assembly for the second time with such amendments, if any, as have been made or suggested by the Legislative Council and agreed to by the Legislative Assembly.

No political purpose will be served by such an exercise. In fact, such an exercise of irritating the government using the majority it has in the Council may prove to be counterproductive as the government now contemplates abolishing the upper House. The government is already mooting such an idea as it suffered a similar fate in case of two of its earlier bills including YS Jagan’s prestigious English medium bill too.

In fact, a similar situation prevailed in the united Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s when NT Rama Rao headed TDP came to power in a historic election. Rama Rao was repeatedly irritated by the Congress that had the majority in the Council as the elections to both the houses are not coterminous.

NT Rama Rao recommended abolition of the upper House through Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council Abolition act of 1985. YS Rajashekhara Reddy revived the Council in 2007 through the passage of Andhra Pradesh legislative council creation act of 2005.

Surprisingly the roles changed. Now, the TDP will be the victim and is crying foul while YS Rajashekhara Reddy’s son contemplates the abolition of the Council.

The political course will take a curious turn if YS Jaganmohan Reddy decides to scrap the Council. The Article 169 (1) of the constitution of India says; The Parliament may enact a law for either abolition or creation of the Legislative Council in a state if the Legislative Assembly therein passes a resolution to that effect by majority of its total membership and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of its members present and voting.

Thus, the Article 169(1) confers on the states the right to abolish the upper House but, as argued in the MP Jain, Indian Constitutional law, the use of word MAY in the Article 169(1) seems to give a discretion to parliament to accept or reject the resolution of the Legislative Assembly of a state for abolition or creation of Legislative Councils therein.

Thus the act of opposition TDP to demonstrate its one-upmanship has created a web of political possibilities.

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