Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

Every state in India has a body of direct representatives of the people. This is the lower house of the State Legislature and is called Vidhan Sabha or the Legislative Assembly. The members of a Vidhan Sabha are directly elected by the people of that particular state by an electorate consisting of all adult citizens.

Gujarat Vidhan Sabha is one such unicameral (having only one legislative or parliamentary chamber) legislature of India. Presently, there are 182 directly elected members from the single-seat constituencies and 1 member is nominated. The Constitution of India highlights that the size of a Vidhan Sabha cannot be more than 500 and less than 60 members. However, the number can be made lesser through an act of the Parliament as in the case of states like Goa, Mizoram and Sikkim. The demarcation of territorial constituencies is done in such a manner that the ratio between population of each constituency and number of seats allotted to it, as far as practicable, is the same for all states. Just like the Lok Sabha, in case of Vidhan Sabha, the Governor has the power to appoint 1 member of the Anglo-Indian Community, if he/she feels that the community is not adequately represented in the House.

Gujarat has witnessed the formation of Parliamentary Democracy and institutions that resembled the present Vidhan Sabha since ages. Shri Bhavsinhji, ruler of the then Bhavnagar State had established an institution called ‘The Peoples’ Representative Assembly’ in 1918. This Assembly had 38 Members appointed by His Highness and they had the right to ask questions related to the problems of the people. Similar were the cases with Porbander, Baroda and Saurashtra constituencies.It was then on 1st May, 1960 when Gujarat was bifurcated from Bombay and the Gujarat Legislative was also constituted. All the 132 members of the former Bombay Legislative Assembly who were elected from the territorial constituencies of Gujarat became the members of the First Gujarat Legislative Assembly. Thus, the initial strength of the Assembly was 132. The strength gradually increased owing to the increase in the population. However, since 1975 the number has been fixed at 182 and no amendments can be made until 2025. Out of the present 182 territorial constituencies, 13 constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 26 constituencies for Scheduled Tribes.

Dr. Jivraj Mehta was the First Chief Minister of the state and Shri Kalyanji Mehta was the First Speaker of the Assembly. The current Vidhan Sabha at Gandhinagar is named ‘Viththalbhai Patel Bhavan’ in the memory of Late Shri Viththalbhai Patel, the first Indian Speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly. The present speaker of the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha is Ganpat Vasava.

Generally, Vidhan Sabha is formed for a period of 5 years. Though, in case of declaration of an Emergency, the term may be extended or it can be dissolved. Vidhan Sabha can also be dissolved if a motion of no confidence is passed against the majority party or coalition within the House.

Vidhan Sabha has some special powers. The biggest one being: A motion of no confidence against the Government in the state can only be introduced in the Vidhan Sabha. If it is passed by a majority vote, then the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers must collectively resign. Also, a money bill can be introduced only by a Vidhan Sabha. The budget of state is also presented in the Vidhan Sabha by the Finance Minister of the state in the name of the Governor of that state.

Some states also have a Legislative Council, i.e. the Vidhan Parishad. This can roughly be compared to Rajya Sabha and it serves as the indirectly elected upper house of a bicameral legislature. It is also a permanent house because it cannot be dissolved. In India, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have Vidhan Parishads.

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The House of People, aka Loksabha is the directly elected lower house of the Parliament. Loksabha is a representative of the people directly chosen through elections based on adult suffrage (right to vote). The Constitution decides the maximum strength of the lower house, which is 552, made up of 530 members who represent the States, up to 20 members for the Union Territories and not more than 2 Anglo-Indian Community members. These 2 are nominated by the President, if he feels that the community is not getting adequate representation in the House. The qualifying age for becoming a member of the Loksabha is 25 years.

The Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. The first general elections under the new Constitution were held during the year 1951-52 and the first elected Loksabha came into being in April 1952. Since then, India has witnessed the formation of 15 Loksabhas; the last election took place in April-May 2009. Each Loksabha functions for a term of maximum 5 years, after which it is dissolved automatically. However, in case of Proclamation of Emergency, the Parliament by law can extend the period by a year.

There is a pre-decided elective membership limit for each state. This limit is distributed among the states in such a way that the ratio between the number of seats allotted to each state and the population of the state is, as far as possible, the same for all states. Gujarat has been allotted 26 seats.

The Constitution insists on the Loksabha to meet at least twice a year, and no more than 6 months can pass between sessions. Generally, 3 sessions of Loksabha take place in a year:

• Budget session: February to May
• Monsoon session: July to September
• Winter session: November to December

Loksabha has the power to elect its Presiding Officer who is called the Speaker. He is responsible for the conduct of business in the Loksabha. The Speaker is assisted by the Deputy Speaker who is also elected by the members of the House.

The first hour of every Loksabha session is called the Question Hour. During this hour, the ministers can pose questions on different aspects of administration and Government policies in the national as well as international spheres. These questions may then be assigned to specific Government Ministries, which have to be answered on a fixed date in the future.

Questions are of three types – Starred, Unstarred and Short Notice.

 A Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer in the House and which is distinguished by an asterisk mark.

 An Unstarred Question is one which is not called for an oral answer in the House and on which no supplementary questions can consequently be asked. An answer to such a question is given in writing. (Minimum period of notice for starred/unstarred questions is 10 clear days)

• Short notice Questions are the ones that relate to the matters of urgent public importance. They are taken up for answer immediately after the Question Hour.

The powers of the Loksabha and the Rajyasabha are almost similar except in the area of Money Bills, in which case the Loksabha has the ultimate authority. Apart from this, the lower house has some special powers (de facto and de jure) which makes it superior to the upper house.

The Loksabha has its own TV channel, Loksabha TV, headquartered within the Parliament premises.

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The honorable President of India and two houses viz. Rajyasabha (Council of States) and Loksabha (House of People), together form The Parliament of the Republic of India. It is commonly referred to as the Indian Parliament. It is the supreme legislative authority that possesses the final authority over all other political bodies of the country. In a Parliament, the President has the power to summon and prorogue either House of Parliament or to dissolve the Lok Sabha.

The origin of Parliament can be traced back to many centuries. It is the central institution of many systems of Government. The word itself is derived from the Latin ‘parliamentum’ meaning ‘discussion’ and the French word ‘parler’ (to speak). The term came to use to name a body of people who would meet to discuss matters of the state.

The Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. The first general elections under the new Constitution were held during the year 1951-52 and the first elected Parliament came into being in April, 1952. Over the years, the Parliament of India has turned out to be multi-functional institution. It is the political nerve centre of the country, acting as a mirror of the society, accommodating the needs of the changing times, shouldering responsibilities and engaging itself fully in the process of running our parliamentary polity. Some of the cardinal roles and functions of the Parliament are: ensuring executive accountability, law making, control over the budget, constituent functions, representational role, educational role, informational functions, training and recruitment of leadership, besides other miscellaneous functions.

A parliamentary form of Government acknowledges the fact that in this system, Parliament derives its power directly from the consent of the people expressed through periodic elections and that it exists to implement the will of the people. The parliamentary system also ensures the best possible participatory democratic system and active interaction between the people and their representatives.

Apart from the basic authorities, the Parliament can, under certain circumstances, also assume legislative power with respect to a subject falling within the sphere, exclusively reserved for the states. The Parliament is also vested with powers to prosecute the President, remove judges of Supreme and High Courts, the Chief Election Commissioner, and Comptroller and Auditor General in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Constitution. All legislation requires the consent of both Houses of the Parliament. It is also vested with the power to initiate amendments in the Constitution.

Parliament – indeed the supreme legislative body of India – with all these major powers in its hands!

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India was a free country since 15th August, 1947. However, it did not have the leisure of owning a permanent Constitution. A Drafting Committee was made and after many discussions and modifications, the Assembly signed two hand-written copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) on 24th January, 1950. And thus, the Constitution of India was born two days later, on 26th January, 1950; 10.18 AM IST. Ever since, the day is celebrated nationally as the Republic Day when the country became a sovereign democratic republic with a written constitution and an elected parliament.

26th January, 2011 will mark India’s 61st Republic Day celebrations. It comes as a disgrace that even today, the meaning of the word is vague in the minds of the people. A state in which the final power lies with its people, who elect their representatives to exercise this power, is called a Republic. Also, a Republic has a President as its head, and not a Monarch or any other hereditary head.

The word ‘Republic’ comes from a Latin phrase meaning ‘Res Publica’ which means ‘a public affair’. The idea behind this concept is Italian, mostly appearing in the writings of the scholar named Machiavelli. He supposedly divided the Governments into two types: principalities ruled by a monarch and republics ruled by people.

In most common terms, the word republic means a system of Government which derives its power from the people rather than from another basis, such as heredity or divine right. And the Republic Day reminds us of the fulfillment of the pledge that was made on the midnight of Independence as a ‘tryst with destiny’. It is future-oriented, a vision of India that we nourish, an acceptance of responsibility and making of promises as well as review of the achievements.

The term Republic has a sense of unity, freedom and strength attached to it. However, India continues its fight for real freedom and unity!

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After the amendment in the Indian Constitution in 1976, India was declared a socialist state, along with being sovereign secular democratic republic. Being a socialist state, India implies social and economic equality. Social equality means that there cannot be any discrimination based on caste, creed, color, sex, language or religion. Every citizen has equal rights, status and opportunities. Whereas, economic equality means that the Government will strive for equal distribution of wealth and provide a decent standard of living for all.

The theory of socialism advocates common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. It is an economic and political system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the Government rather than the private players.

There are different types of socialist states. Some do not tolerate capitalism at all, while some allow it as far as the Government maintains its dominance. It is interesting to note that all communists are socialists, but all socialists are not communists. The term socialist state differs as defined by various theories. According to Marxism, a socialist state is a state that has abolished capitalism and is moving towards communism. But, there are some countries, including India that use the term ‘socialist’ in their Constitution without claiming to follow communism or any of its derivatives.

India has adopted a socialistic and mixed economy and the Government has framed many laws to achieve the aim. Because there are several branches of socialism, the view has been so-far-unsuccessfully challenged since 1994 in the many courts in India.

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Naxalites, also sometimes referred as Naxals, is a term used to define a group of people who are carrying out a violent struggle against the landlords and others. They are doing this on behalf of the landless laborers and the tribal people. The Naxals are considered far-left radical communists, supportive to Maoist political sentiments and ideology. Their origin can be traced to the split in 1967 of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), leading to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist). This movement has its origin connected to Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal. In 1967, an aggressive uprising was declared to adopt an armed struggle to redistribute land to the landless. This was followed by fights, small attacks, arrests by police and more land disputes. These events encouraged the tribes and the poor people to join the rebellion and they started attacking local landlords. From this ‘Naxalbari Uprising’ came the word Naxalite.

Naxalites propagate that they are simply fighting oppression and exploitation to create a classless society. They believe there are the Adivasis, Dalits, and the poorest of the poor, who work as landless laborers for a pittance are often left untouched by India’s development and bypassed by the electoral process. However, their opponents claim that they are terrorists oppressing people in the name of a class war. Over the years, they have started extorting money from the middle level land owners and also exploiting the lives of the people they claim to be fighting for.

Naxals have two main groups: People’s War and the Maoist Communist Centre. But just like other movements set up with high principles, over the years the Naxalite movement is seen losing its vision and having compromised its principles. Nevertheless, the fact that it has an endless supply of men and women joining its ranks shows that many still believe in its cause.

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‘Socialism’ is an ideology derived from the teachings of Mao Zedong. In the People’s Republic of China (PRC) it has been the official doctrine of the Communist Party of China since the Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s, although since the reforms of Deng Xiaoping the term has had little meaning in practice.

Outside the PRC, Maoism was a term, used from the 1960s onwards, usually in a hostile sense, to describe parties or individuals who supported Mao Zedong and his form of Communism, as opposed to the form practiced in the Soviet Union, which these groups denounced as “revisionist.” These groups usually rejected the term Maoism, preferring to call themselves Marxist-Leninists. Since the death of Mao and the reforms of Deng, most of these parties have disappeared, but various small Communist groups in a number of countries continue to advance Maoist ideas.

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