In our country the central legislature is called the Parliament, which has two Houses:
(1) Lok Sabha and
(2) Rajya Sabha.
There were 22 States and 9 Union Territories in India till 1985, out of which 7 States had two Houses and the rest 15 States had only one House, i.e. Legislative Assembly. Now we discuss the functions of the Legislature.
In a democracy generally, the following are the functions of Legislature:
(1) Law Making:
In modern times the most important function of legislature is law making. Ordinary Bills can be introduced by the members of the Parliament and by the Ministers, while Money Bills can be introduced only by the Ministers in the Lower House. The Members of the Legislature can by a majority vote accept or reject any Bill. The Members of Legislature or the Parliament enjoy full freedom of speech and also of criticism of the policies of the government.
(2) Control over the Budget:
The legislature has control over the budget of the executive (Government) and without its approval the executive cannot spend even a single ‘paisa’. In England and India, the Members of the Parliament can impose a cut on any demand on the budget but they cannot increase it.
(3) Control over Executive:
In a Parliamentary Government the Legislature or the Parliament exercises full control over the executive or the Council of Ministers. The Parliament has the right to put Questions and Supplementary Questions to the Cabinet.
The Parliament can remove the Cabinet by a No- Confidence Motion. It can bring in Adjournment Motions and Censure Motions against the Cabinet. The Parliament can appoint a committee to investigate the affairs of the ministers.
In certain countries the legislature has to perform certain judicial functions. For example, in India and America the Parliament and the Congress can remove the President by a process of Impeachment. In England, the House of Lords is the final Court of Appeal. In Canada, the Upper House, i.e. the Senate hears the divorce cases. In Switzerland, the Federal Assembly has the power to interpret the Constitution.
In certain countries, the legislature elects the President, the Vice-President and the Judges. In India, the Parliament takes part in the election of the President and the Vice-President. (In the election of the President, besides the Parliament, the State Legislatures also take part, but in the election of the Vice- President, only the Parliament takes part).
In Russia, the Judges of the Supreme Court are elected by the Parliament of that country. In Switzerland also the members of the Executive and Federal Tribunal are elected by the members of Parliament. Formerly, in China the President was elected by the Parliament.
(6) Amendment of the Constitution:
In every democracy, the power to amend the constitution rests with the legislature of that country. The only difference is that in some countries, a similar procedure is adopted as that for the amendment of ordinary laws. In some other countries a special procedure is adopted for the amendment of the constitution. In our country, the Parliament can amend certain clauses of the constitution with a two thirds majority and for amending certain clauses; the approval of one half of the state legislatures is needed.
(7) A Minor of Public Opinion:
Now-a-days, the legislature acts as the mirror of public opinion, because it criticises and compels the executive to act according to the wishes of the people.
(8) Right of the Legislature to remove the Judges:
In India, China, Soviet Russia, England and the U.S.A., the Parliament has the power to remove the judges of the Federal or Supreme Court.
(9) As a Board of Directors:
In certain countries the legislature acts as a Board of Directors for Government Corporations, because it decides the manner in which the Administrative Branch is to be organized and perform its functions. It also decides the ways and means for raising money.
We have given the functions of the legislatures in democratic countries. The situation in totalitarian countries is quite different. In these countries, the executive has a great control over the legislature; hence the executive is not responsible to the legislature. Its functions like law-making and the passage of the budget are nominal.
The legislature acts according to the directions of the executive. Thus we see that in democratic countries, the legislatures exercise a great control over the executive, but in totalitarian regimes the legislature is controlled by the executive.