Context: The Election Commission announced the schedule for elections to four graduates’ and teachers’ constituencies in the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh legislative councils.
- These are constituencies in which only teachers and graduates respectively are eligible to vote.
Composition of State Legislative Council
- Unlike the members of the legislative assembly, the members of the legislative council are indirectly elected.
- The maximum strength of the council is fixed at one-third of the total strength of the assembly and the minimum strength is fixed at 40.
- It means that the size of the council depends on the size of the assembly of the concerned state.
- This is done to ensure the predominance of the directly elected House (assembly) in the legislative affairs of the state.
- Though the Constitution has fixed the maximum and the minimum limits, the actual strength of a Council is fixed by Parliament.
Manner of Election
- As per Article 171 of the Constitution of India, the composition of the Legislative Council of a State will be as under:
- a) As nearly as may be, one-third of the total members shall be elected by electorates consisting of members of municipalities, district boards and such other local authorities in the State as Parliament may, by law, specify;
- b) As nearly as may be, one-twelfth of the total members shall be elected by electorates consisting of persons residing in the State who have been for at least three years graduates of any university in the territory of India or have been for at least three years in possession of qualifications prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament as equivalent to that of a graduate of any such university;
- c) As nearly as may be, one-twelfth of the total members shall be elected by electorates consisting of persons who have been for at least three years engaged in teaching in such educational institutions within the State, not lower in standard than that of a secondary school, as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament;
- d) As nearly as may be, one-third of the total members shall be elected by the members of the Legislative Assembly of the State from amongst persons who are not members of the Assembly;
- e) The remainder of the total members shall be nominated by the Governor and shall consist of persons having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as the following – Literature, Science, Art, Co-operative Movement and Social Services.
- Thus, 5/6 of the total number of members of a legislative council are indirectly elected and 1/6 are nominated by the governor.
- The bonafide or propriety of the governor’s nomination in any case cannot be challenged in the courts.
- The members are elected in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote.
- This scheme of the composition of a legislative council as laid down in the Constitution is tentative and not final.
- The Parliament is authorized to modify or replace the same. However, it has not enacted any such law so far.
- Thus, there are three types of constituencies of Legislative Councils, called council constituencies, for which electoral rolls are prepared. These are:
- Local Authorities’ Constituency;
- Graduates’ Constituency;
- Teachers’ Constituency.
Graduates’ and teachers’ constituencies
Does the idea hold good now?
- To curb criminality in politics and the use of money and muscle power by the candidates, it was thought that it would be better if only the highly educated and the intellectuals were allowed to vote.
- But today, when a host of new professions have come into being and are attracting the best of talent with educated citizens, such an exercise no longer makes much sense.
Do all the states in the country have such constituencies?
- These elections are only held in the six bi-cameral states of the country.
- Along with a legislative assembly, they also possess a legislative council or an upper house, which has a fixed term of six years like the Rajya Sabha, one-third of whose members retire every two years.
- The states in India which have a legislative council are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Who are eligible to vote in elections to these constituencies?
- These elections are not open to all voters. In the case of graduates’ constituency, only citizens of India who are ordinarily resident from the given constituency can vote in this election provided they hold a graduation degree from a recognised Indian university, or an equivalent qualification.
- Another eligibility criterion is that the prospective voter should have obtained the said qualification at least three years before the qualifying date for preparation of the electoral rolls.
- In the case of teachers’ constituency, the basic requirement remains the same – they need to be a citizen of India and ordinarily a resident in the constituency.
- This apart, in order to qualify as a voter in such a constituency one needs to be a full-time teacher in at least a secondary school or higher, for a total period of at least three years in the six years immediately prior to the qualifying date.
Are these representatives able to voice the concerns of their constituency well?
- It is assumed so because as members of the legislative council they enjoy similar powers and rights as those of the members of the legislative assembly. They can even be appointed a minister or chief minister. Overall though, the collective powers of the council are less than that of the assembly.
How can a person apply for a vote?
- For elections to teachers’ or graduates’ constituency, a resident can apply as a voter by filling up a form. An ordinary voter-identity card is not sufficient to become eligible to cast a vote in these two cases.
- However, in the case of teachers, as they are mostly graduates, they normally qualify to vote in elections in both these constituencies.
Why is the turnout low in these elections?
- The turnout is low because most eligible voters do not bother to register because the registration process is quite cumbersome.
- Apart from filling up a form a person also has to make a copy of degree certificates and self-attest it, get a gazetted officer to attest the address proof and a copy of degree certificate or carry an original of the certificate to the registration location. The process is time consuming. Therefore, the turnout in these elections is usually abysmally low.
Do these elections really serve their purpose?
- Apparently not, because in the absence of proper information and the public’s lack of exposure, most eligible voters do not register. This is also reflected in the low turnout these elections normally witness.
- What compounds the issue is the requirement of separate registration, which discourages many eligible people.
- Article 324 of the Constitution provides that the power of superintendence, direction and control of elections to parliament, state legislatures, the office of president of India and the office of vice-president of India shall be vested in the election commission.
- It must be noted here that the election commission is not concerned with the elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states. For this, the Constitution of India provides for a separate State Election Commission (Article 243K of the Constitution).