TODAY -

Functions and Responsibilities of MLA

Prof (Dr) Nimai Chand Luwang *

Monsoon Assembly Session at Manipur Legislative Assembly Building :: July 20 - 21 2018
Monsoon Assembly Session at Manipur Legislative Assembly Building in July 2018 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam



What is the public's concept about the role of a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA)? The role of an MLA has not always been clearly understood. The common idea, or rather, misconception is that an MLA is responsible for resolving basic civic concerns like waste management, sewage treatment, construction of roads and the supply of basic utilities like water.

In addition, people have the notion that it is the duty of the MLAs to provide them with Government jobs, and are responsible for their transfers and postings. Nowadays, the MLAs of Manipur have been assigned with the task of fertilizer distribution to the farmers — the farmers have to go to the MLAs for their fertilizer requirements. MLAs are expected to distribute NFSA rice, fertilizers, clean drainages, clean garbage and so on.

Furthermore, the public feel that they are required to approach their respective MLAs to get various works done, such as selection of beneficiaries for Old aged pension, Widow pension, Disability pension, Housing scheme, Ration cards and so on. The public feel that it is the duty of the MLAs to distribute Rice and Ration under the NFSA scheme as well as PMGAAY scheme etc. Such is the present scenario.

Surprisingly, these actually do not fall within the ambit of an MLA's responsibilities. What exactly is your MLA supposed to do ? It's not what you think....

The roles and responsibilities of an MLA are not clearly laid out in the Constitution. The Parliament enacted the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India in the early 1990s which led to the formation of municipalities (local urban bodies) and Panchayats (village councils).

These bodies were empowered to address micro-civic concerns, bringing about "greater decentralization and involvement of the community in planning and implementing schemes and, thus increase accountability". However, due to many reasons, it appears that devolution of such powers has not come close to reality.

The failure to devolve real powers to municipalities and panchayats has left citizens seeking intervention of MLAs or MPs in local issues, bypassing the very arms of Government that were created to address them. MLAs and MPs, meanwhile, respond to these demands out of fear of blowback from voters. However, what this has done is to shift their attention from their actual responsibilities— enact laws, ratify public expenditure and to hold the Government accountable.

The MLA is responsible for even and efficient functioning of the State Assembly — and not the various other civic concerns that routinely reach their desk.

Powers and functions of MLAs:

The powers and functions of Members of the Legislative Assembly may be categorized under the following: Legislative powers: The most important and primary function of the Members of the legislative Assembly is Law making. The Constitution of India states that the members of the Legislative Assembly can exercise their legislative powers on all matters in which the Parliament cannot legislate.

An MLA can exercise his legislative powers on the State List and the Concurrent List. The State List contains subjects of importance to the individual State alone, such as trade, commerce, development, irrigation, and agriculture, while the Concurrent List contains items of importance to both the Union Government and the State Government such as succession, marriage, education, adoption, forests and so on.

The role of an MLA involves understanding the spirit of existing laws, planning new laws, and studying, discussing and then supporting or opposing the enactment of new laws.

Financial powers :

The State Legislative Assembly holds the absolute financial powers in the State. A money Bill can only originate in the Legislative Assembly and its members must give consent for any of the expenses made from the State Treasury. All grants and tax raising proposals must be authorized by the MLAs to be executed and implemented for the development of the State. One important role of the Assembly and its members is the fiscal responsibility.

The Legislative Assembly exercises control over the finances of the State and has to approve the budget presented by the Government in power and ensure that the funds are allocated adequately and appropriately for the business of governance.

Executive Powers:

Members of the Legislative Assembly in each State exercise certain executive powers. The Legislature has the powers to oversight over the Executive. MLAs are expected to oversee and monitor all programmes and schemes that the executive implements. This does not mean that they merely sit on committees approving beneficiary lists and houses and determining how local area development funds are spent.

They are expected to ensure that the executive branch of the government does its job responsibly, responsively, transparently, impartially and in line with the decision taken by the political executive. They control the activities and actions taken by the Chief Minister and the council of Ministers. In other words, the ruling Government is answerable to the Legislative Assembly for all its decisions.

A vote of no-confidence can be passed by the MLAs in any State that, if passed by a majority, can force the ruling Government to resign. Question Hour, Cut motions and Adjournment Motions can be exercised by the Members of the Legislative Assembly in order to restrict the executive organ of the State Government machinery.

Electoral powers:

The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly are elected by the MLAs. MLAs also elect the members of various finance committees. Members of the Legislative Assembly comprise the Electoral College, which elects the President of the country. The Members of the Legislative Assembly elect the Members of the Rajya Sabha.

Constitutional powers :

Some parts of the Indian Constitution can be amended by the Parliament with the approval of half of the State legislatures. The State legislatures take part in the process of amendment of our Constitution too.

Miscellaneous powers :

MLAs review reports of the Public Service Commission and the Accountant General. MLAs appoint the various committees to the House. Parliamentary committees examine a broad range of topics including transportation network services, local meat production, and children and youth with neurodiverse, special needs, and also contribute to the overall scrutiny of the government.

MLAs are expected to use their roles in the Assembly to scrutinize the annual budget consultations, raise issues in the House using reports of the CAG and Accountant general to ensure that public money is spent wisely. MLAs also have works to do in their Constituencies. It is their role to represent the people within their Constituencies by listening to their views and helping them to solve problems.

Party caucus:

An MLA is also a Member of an elected party caucus. In this function, they may be involved in planning and orchestrating strategy in the House, supporting the caucus and its decisions, and developing expertise in given areas. Depending on their party's political fortunes, an MLA may serve as a member of the Council of Ministers or Opposition critic.


* Prof (Dr) Nimai Chand Luwang wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a former Member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly (4th, 5 th, 6th,7th and 8th Assemblies) and four times Minister of Manipur
This article was webcasted on August 20 2022 .



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