Historical Background

The Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly has no pre-constitution history-the State itself is a post-Independence creation. It first came into being as a Centrally administered territory on April 15, 1948 by the integration of 30 erstwhile princely States. It was administered by a Chief Commissioner, aided and advised in the discharge of his functions by an Advisory Council Consisting of Nine members, three of whom represented the erstwhile princely States and Six being public representatives. In 1951, it became a part 'C' State. Vide Section 3 of Part 'C' State's Act, 1951 Himachal Pradesh was brought under a Lt.Governor with 36 member Legislative Assembly. First election to the Assembly were held in 1952. In 1954 Bilaspur, another part-C State, was merged with Himachal Pradesh and the strength of its Assembly was raised to 41. In 1956, despite majority recommendation of the States Reorganization Commission for its merger with Punjab, Himachal Pradesh retained its separate identity, thanks to the famous dissenting note of the Chairman of the Commission, Justice Sh. Fazal Ali which found favour with the Centre. But a great price had to be paid as Himachal was made a Union Territory sans Legislative Assembly and was placed under an Administrator designated as Lt. Governor. Instead of a Legislative Assembly it was provided with a Territorial Council with limited powers. Thereafter, the people and the political leadership of the State had to literally move heaven and earth for the restoration of democratic edifice. Their efforts finally bore fruit in 1963, when a bill was passed by the Union Parliament for providing Legislative Assemblies and Council of Ministers to certain Union Territories including H.P. It was enforced in the case of Himachal Pradesh from Ist July, 1963 after receiving President's assent. The Territorial Council which was a replica of a dyarchical form of government was converted into a Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory. The strength of the Assembly was fixed at 43 including 2 nominated members. The Assembly held its first sitting from Ist of October 1963. Continuity of the Assembly is considered from this date hence its silver jubilee was celebrated in the year 1988. With the merger of new areas into Himachal Pradesh in 1966, the number of Members in the House rose to 56 including 2 nominated. The strength of the House was further raised to 63 (60 elected and 3 nominated) after section 24 (3) of Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 (Act No. 31 of 1966) came into force in 1967. Finally it was on January 25, 1971 that a big leap forward was taken and the abode of gods ('Devbhumi' as Himachal is called) made its debut as the 18th State of the Union of India. The declaration of a full fledged State came from none other then the Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi from the historic Ridge Maidan. After delimitation of Assembly seats in the year 1971-72, the number of Members in the Assembly now stands at 68.

THE COUNCIL CHAMBER:

The Council Chamber, the building which houses the Legislative Assembly has a past as well as a present to be proud of. The edifice was completed and was inaugurated by Lord Reading, the then Viceroy of India, on August 27, 1925. The need of this building arose for the simple reason the British chose SHIMLA as the Summer Capital of the Imperial Govt. to save themselves from the blistering summer of Delhi. The Central Assembly had, therefore, to be provided an appropriate accommodation. The construction of the building was started in 1920 near the 'Kennedy House' which was built by the founder of Shimla, Major Kennedy on this new found hill resort.' The Council Chamber was incidently one of the last important buildings to be built by the British and it was completed at the cost of approx Rs. 10 lacs. The main Hall at that time provided seats for 145 Central Assembly Members (104 elected and 41 nominated) with the President's (the Speaker was then called as President) dias flanked by Viceroy's box (now called the Governor's box) in the left and box for the officers on the right. The Chair for the President is said to have been gifted by the Government of Burma. It is a throne like chair with a high back and with two columns at the sides and flower like decorations at the top. It is made of the renowned Burma teak wood and is still in use in the H.P. Legislative Assembly. However, the Crown that topped the Canopy being symbol of the Imperial Empire was replaced by 'Ashok Chakra' after Independence.The Council Chamber as the building has come to be known, changed many a hands after Independence. At the time of Partition, the Punjab Govt. was shifted to Shimla & its Assembly held its meetings in this building. When the Punjab Assembly was shifted to Chandigarh, the Assembly of Part 'C' State of H.P. got the pride of having its sittings in this Chamber. Before that it used to hold its meetings in Vice-Regal Lodge (later named 'Rashtrapati Niwas'). Sh. Jaiwant Ram was the first Speaker of the Pradesh Assembly to occupy the Chair. On October, 31, 1956 when H.P. Assembly was dissolved following the Report of the State's Reorganization Commission, the Govt. Secretariat was shifted in this building when 'Himachal Dham' (the building in which Secretariat was housed) was gutted in fire in mid 1957. During this period the main Chamber was converted into temporary Cabin like structures. For few year, "All India Radio" was also housed in the lower part of the building. The premises were at last restored to the original position on July 1, 1963 when Legislature was revived. First Session of the Assembly after its restoration was held in the Council Chamber from Oct.1, 1963.It need to be mentioned here that the Council Chamber was first renovated in 1963. In 1988 the complete furniture of the Chamber was replaced, when Silver Jubilee of the State Legislative Assembly was celebrated. Besides adding new furniture, the shape of the Hall has been changed from rectangular to U shape with the sitting capacity for 72 Members keeping in view the future requirements. While speaking of this historic Chamber, mention must be made of the fact that it has seen many vicissitudes of fortunes and has been an eye-witness to many an epoch-making event. As aforesaid, in successive years, it has housed the Central Legislative Assembly, the Punjab Legislative Assembly, the Himachal Pradesh Govt. Secretariat and the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly. It has seen the grandeur of the Viceroys and the dignity, grace and glory of Vithalbhai Patel, the first elected President (or Speaker) of the Central Legislative Assembly. In fact the first historic event that took place in the Council Chamber was his election to the Chair as first non-official candidate, in accordance with the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee of the British Parliament on the Govt. of India Act, 1919. Sh. Vithalbhai Patel held office from 1925 to 1930. He is known to have been truely assertive and for laying down the foundation for an independent/impartial Chair. It was he who declared in this Chamber that the person who occupies this Chair in the Assembly should be above all suspicions or being even unconsciously biased in favour of any Party or Govt. It was, therefore, here in this Chamber that he emphasized need for a non-party President/Speaker and on his 1st election to the Chair he observed; "FROM THIS MOMENT, I CEASE TO BE A PARTY MAN. I BELONG TO NO PARTY. I BELONG TO ALL PARTIES...".With a view to strengthen the independence of the office of President/Speaker he declined to accept a ticket from any party for his re-election to the Central Legislative Assembly. Instead, he fought and won as an Independent Member and was soon re-elected unanimously to the Chair. Unfortunately this healthy convention of a non-party Speaker was neither followed by his successors nor encouraged by the leadership of ruling parties in this country. It was also in this Chamber that President Patel got a resolution passed by the Central Legislature for creation of a separate Legislative Assembly Department under the President himself. He said:- "I AM RESPONSIBLE TO THE ASSEMBLY AND TO NO OTHER AUTHORITY"It is hence because of his endeavour that today each Legislature is having a separate and more or less independent Secretariat. Provisions to this regard was also made later in the Constitution itself under Article 98 (1) and Article 187 (1). This Chamber has also been witness to various important Resolutions being passed by the Central Legislature. By one of these resolutions, Pt. Motilal Nehru reminded the British Government that ultimate goal of the Indians was Independence. The contents of the resolution asunder:- " INDIA IS DETERMINED TO WIN FREEDOM. THE MANNER AND MEASURE AND THE TIME EITHER YOU DETERMINE IN A REASONABLE SPIRIT OR ELSE SHE WILL DETERMINE FOR HERSELF".



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