The Constitution of India is the fountainhead from which all our laws derive their authority and force. This is next Article in the series on constitutional provisions in order to aid our readers in understanding them.
170. Composition of the Legislative Assemblies.—(1) Subject to the provisions of article 333, the Legislative Assembly of each State shall consist of not more than five hundred, and not less than sixty, members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the State.
(2) For the purposes of clause (1), each State shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it shall, so far as practicable, be the same throughout the State.
Explanation.—In this clause, the expression “population” means the population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published:
Provided that the reference in this Explanation to the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published shall, until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, be construed as a reference to the 2001 census.
(3) Upon the completion of each census, the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of each State and the division of each State into territorial constituencies shall be readjusted by such authority and in such manner as Parliament may by law determine:
Provided that such readjustment shall not affect representation in the Legislative Assembly until the dissolution of the then existing Assembly:
Provided further that such readjustment shall take effect from such date as the President may, by order, specify and until such readjustment takes effect, any election to the Legislative Assembly may be held on the basis of the territorial constituencies existing before such readjustment:
Provided also that until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2026 have been published, it shall not be necessary to readjust—
(i) the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of each State as readjusted on the basis of the 1971 census; and
(ii) the division of such State into territorial constituencies as may be readjusted on the basis of the 2001 census, under this clause.
Article 170 provides that the Legislative Assembly of a State shall consist of not more than 500 and not less than 60 members. In addition, under article 333, the Governor of the State may nominate one Anglo-Indian to represent the community if he finds that it needs representation. The elected members are chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies. The basis of delimitation of constituencies and of allocation of seats has been stated to be the size of population as per the latest available census figures. The broad principle enshrined in the article is that of the proportionality of representation and of one person one vote. Even though mathematical accuracy in proportional representation was neither intended nor possible, the provisos inserted in article 170 – as in article 82 – have, in fact, rendered the main provision and its principle completely meaningless. This is perhaps being done merely on grounds of political expediency and electoral constraints. This, it is difficult to justify on any other grounds – juridical or otherwise.
This article was amended by the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956. The reference to the scale of representation was omitted, because it was considered possible that there might be States with a population of less than 4.5 million, in which case the two conditions of a minimum of 60 members and a scale of representation of not more than one member for every 750,000 of the population could not be satisfied simultaneously. It was provided that the maximum membership would be 500 and the minimum sixty; and that each State would be divided into territorial constituencies and the ratio in any constituency between the population and the number of States would be the same throughout the State. The provision for the readjustment of constituencies after each decennial census was retained.
The Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 substituted the Explanation to clause (2)
The same amendment inserted a proviso to clause (3).
The Constitution (Eighty-fourth Amendment) Act, 2001 substituted figures and words in article 170(2) and 170(3)
Article 170(1) is not the only provision regarding the composition of State Legislatures. Power to reduce the total number of members of the Legislative Assembly of a State below the minimum prescribed by article 170(1) is implicit in the authority to make laws under article 4 of the Constitution.
Under clause (2) read with the Explanation and clause (3) of article 170, elections to the Legislative Assembly after the relevant figures of the population of the last preceding census have been ascertained and published can only be held on the basis of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of each State and the division of each State into territorial constituencies readjusted by the Election Commission under the 1972 Act.
Article 170(2) embodies the concept of ‘fair and effective representation’ or ‘one person one vote’. On principle, the constituencies, as far as possible, should be of equal size but this cannot be applied with arithmetical accuracy.
Source: Dr Subhash C Kashyap