A peek inside Karnataka’s state government

The interiors of the Vidhana Soudha’s many domes are beautifully painted. The Vidhana Soudha houses the legislature of the state of Karnataka. (Photo: Diana Lopez)

The interiors of the Vidhana Soudha’s many domes are beautifully painted. The Vidhana Soudha houses the legislature of the state of Karnataka. (Photo: Diana Lopez)

Thursday, June 5—Today marks one week since we arrived in this metropolitan city, and although so far we have managed to visit an impressively large number of places, we are not about to slow down now. In fact, our hunger for adventures is only growing.

This morning, we ventured into the area surrounding Cubbon Park. This time, however, we weren’t looking for an encounter with nature.

We visited the Vidhana Soudha, where the state legislature of Karnataka meets, and the High Court of Karnataka. Karnataka is one of India’s 29 states, and Bangalore is its capital city.

As we walked through the Vidhana Soudha, our first stop, we couldn’t help but to be drawn to the beautifully designed high ceilings. Ravindra, a government official who, like many Indians, uses only one name, walked us into “members only” areas to explain how the state parliamentary system of Karnataka works.

We entered the room where the upper house of parliament meets twice or three times per year. These meetings last 10 to 20 days, nine hours per day. The room is big and well equipped. There is a section for the press to the left of the speaker’s podium and a seating area for the public. The room, as with many others in this big, Greco-Roman building from 1869, is decorated with photographs and statues of Mahatma Gandhi and of the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation’s first president, Rajendra Prasad, and other important figures in Indian history.

We proceeded to a large, members-only room with beige leather couches and a green carpet where, as Ravindra said, “The deals are made.”

The legislative system in the state of Karnataka is quite different from the one we know. The legislature is divided into two houses: the lower house, with 224 members, and the upper house, with 75 members elected from local bodies. Ravindra told us that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which controls the national government at present, rules the upper house while the Congress Party, to which Karnataka’s chief minister, Siddaramaiah, belongs, rules the lower house.

After exploring a bit more of the immense building, we took a short van ride across the street to see the High Court of Karnataka. There, we witnessed a few minutes of a courtroom session involving a property dispute and visited the High Court Museum where we saw a model of the very building we were in. We saw photographs of the court’s 62 judges and a handwritten judgment from 1879, among other Indian treasures.

We concluded our visit to the court with a lunch meeting hosted by a former High Court judge, the Honorable Justice B.S. Indrakala, who besides being the third female judge in the Karnataka court system also happens to have a grandson who goes to Stony Brook University. She now oversees Karnataka’s consumer complaint tribunal. It was through Justice Indrakala’s kind assistance that the way was cleared for us to visit the Vidhana Soudha, which normally doesn’t allow tourists, and the High Court.

The things we learned about the legal system and how it differs from the one we are used to, along with the openness of the Indian people and their willingness to show us their system, made this a remarkable experience. – Diana Lopez





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