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MP Elections 2023: What are the roles & responsibilities of an MLA?

Understand the roles and responsibilities of an MLA for the upcoming elections in Madhya Pradesh. Get the facts on their duties

By B. Mohita
New Update
MLA Responsibilities

The legislative assembly elections are fast approaching in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Political tension is ripe as parties roll out lists of nominated candidates and engage in fierce battles to woo voters. The state has a total of 230 constituencies. With less than a month left for people to exercise their power of vote to decide their representatives, it is worth understanding what roles, and responsibilities for an MLA.

India follows a three-tier system of governance that consists of the central government, state government and city government. Unlike Members of Parliament (MPs) at the national level, who deal with matters of national importance, MLAs' duties are tied more closely to the state's functioning- enacting laws, overseeing public expenditure, and ensuring government accountability. However, MLAs' roles and responsibilities remain largely ambiguous.

A detailed article by Citizen Matters highlights how until the 1990s when the third tier of government was formed, an MLA was associated with the smallest of issues in the constituency they were elected from. However, with the third tier of government (municipalities in urban areas and panchayats in rural areas) in place, MLAs should ideally be responsible for state-level issues. The devolution of power should have empowered municipalities and panchayats to deal with micro issues. But, these issues continue to be associated with the MLAs to date.

Surprisingly, nowhere does the Indian Constitution clearly lay out the roles and responsibilities of an MLA. However, despite lacking clear-cut directives, MLAs are expected to play essential functions in the state legislative assemblies. 

Important MLA Responsibilities

Task of legislation

The MLAs are endowed with the task of introducing, debating and amending bills, making laws and voting on the subjects mentioned in the State and Concurrent lists. An MLA, who is not a Minister, can use the Private Members' Bill to move what they think is appropriate to be passed as an Act.

Asking questions and raising matters of public concern

MLAs are expected to submit questions to the government during the Question Hour. These queries cover various aspects of administrative activities, and ministers are obliged to provide oral or written responses. This process allows MLAs to acquire necessary information and address issues of public concern. Both MLAs from the ruling party/coalition and the opposition can submit questions to the government. This process is undertaken during the Question Hour (the first hour of every Assembly sitting).

Scrutinising public expenditure

The Finance Bill outlines how the government intends to spend taxpayers' money and is crucial to the legislative agenda. MLAs are expected to carefully review budget documents and raise concerns about public expenditure. This exercise is to ensure that resources are allocated wisely concerning public interest.

In any State Assembly, the Finance Bill holds a significant place since it outlines how the government plans to spend its taxes for the following year. When the government tables the Finance Bill on the floor of the house, MLAs are expected to use the opportunity to carefully study pages of budget documents and issue their concerns to the State finance minister.

It is worth noting that while MLAs do informally play a role in the administration of their constituencies, they don't have a say in public expenditure. In such a scenario, participation in budget consultations raising issues in the house using reports of the CAG and the Accountant General to ensure that public money is spent wisely becomes all the more important. 

MLA Local Area Development (LAD) Funds

The State Government sanctions MLA LAD funds to enable the MLA to undertake development works to be executed in their Constituency. Each state has its own MLA Local Area Development Scheme Fund. Citizens can monitor the allocation and completion of projects funded by this scheme. The scheme aims to identify and implement the essential works to bridge the critical infrastructure gaps in the constituencies.

This work includes but is not limited to developmental work such as laying cement concrete roads, provision of buildings and/or compound walls for government and local body institutions, construction of bridges, formation of new public parks, construction of public toilets, etc.

Participation in committees

Like the Parliament, state legislatures have committees that carefully examine various aspects of government, legislation, and finances. MLAs participate in these committees, offering recommendations and helping shape policies and laws.

What action can be taken against non-performing MLAs?

As per a report by Times of India, on February 2, 2009, an RTI application was filed by activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya with the Election Commission seeking details of duties, responsibilities and accountability of MPs and MLAs. The commission replied that it was "not concerned with information sought" and had no such information. Appeals to various state secretariats also revealed that the states had no provision/rule through which MLAs' duties, responsibilities and accountabilities are fixed. With the lack of such a provision, the only way for people to take action against non-performing MLAs is to wait for the next elections.

The issue also raises important questions about the lack of public discourse on the lack of provisions specifying the responsibilities and accountability of our elected representatives. In such a scenario, the role of the media in finding and highlighting significant public concerns becomes all the more important.

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