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The State of Kerala has been a role model for the Indian States in enacting progressive legislation with far reaching implications in diverse fields. Kerala owns a widely appreciated record of legislative achievements, which have injected dynamism and progressiveness in the social, political and economic arena. The waves of change stirred by the legislative measures spreading across years of evolution of the legislature has been truly effective in realising the hopes and aspirations of the people.
From the representative bodies of the princely States of Travancore and Cochin and the British Malabar, limited in powers and strength, the legislative structure has grown to become the law making body of the integrated State of Kerala. The evolutionary history of legislation ranges from the Royal Regulations of the past to the reformative Acts of the present. The course of development matches the social, economic and political environment of the respective periods.
The proclamations issued by the Maharaja marked the beginning of the history of legislation in Travancore, long before the constitution of a representative body. After the formation of the Travancore Legislative Council in 1888, the process of legislation began to gain form as Regulations, though they were recommendatory in nature. The enactments in the early stage centered around the welfare of the various communities in Travancore, as proved by the Jenmy-Kudiyan Act, The Nayar Act, The Ilava Act, The Nanjinad Vellala Act and the Travancore Kshatriyas Act. Besides there were legislations aimed at economic welfare like The Chitties Act. The major structural change which occurred in 1904 led to the creation of the Sri Mulam Popular Assembly of Travancore, which in due course of time became a powerful forum for expression of popular feelings on administrative matters. Further, on October 28, 1932, the promulgation of the Travancore Legislative Reforms Regulation II of 1108 by Sri Chithira Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore heralded another transformation by which bicameral legislature came into being. The legislature was thereby given opportunity to expose the irregularities and misappropiation on the part of the executive. Several historical enactments were also made during the reign of Sri. Chithira Thirunal, who had authored the Temple Entry Proclamation on the 12th November , 1936, which came to be known as the spiritual Magna Carta of Travancore. Eversince the change of terminology of Regulations to Acts by the Proclamation issued on 18th March , 1939, there has been a flow of several Acts among which the Travancore Village Panchayats Act, The Travancore Insurance Act, The Travancore Child Marriage Restraint Act, the Travancore District Muncipalities Act, The Travancore Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, The Travancore Maternity Benifit Act, The Travancore Primary Education Act, The Travancore Hoarding And Profiteering Prevention Act, The Travancore Local Authorities Loans Act etc. deserve mention. By the Travancore Interim Constitution Act of 24th March, 1948, the Maharaja proclaimed establishment of responsible Government and the creation of a new Assembly, namely the Representative Body of Travancore, which was to function as the Constituent Assembly also. The legislation corresponding to this period, extending upto 1949, which included The International Monetary Fund and Bank Act, The Travancore Minimum Wages Act, The Travancore Industrial Disputes Act, The Travancore Factories Act,The Travancore Opium Smoking Act etc, denotes the vast and diverse scope of legislation.
In the neighbouring Princely State of Cochin, the first Legislative Council was inaugurated in April 1925. The Cochin Census Regulation, The Cutchi Memons Regulation, The Cochin Prevention of Food Adulteration Regulation, The Cochin Trade Union Regulation etc were important among the regulations of the initial period. Two Acts, The Cochin Tenency Act, 1938 and The Cochin Agriculturists Relief Act, were landmarks in the history of land reforms. In 1938, a system of diarchy was introduced in Cochin by the Government of Cochin Act, 1938. On August 14, 1947 the Maharaja of Cochin constituted a full responsible Government Consisting of a Council of Ministers and a Prime Minister as its head. Adult franchise was introduced in 1948 and Legislative Council was termed Legislative assembly. A popular ministry assumed office on September 20, 1948 after the general elections and it remained in office till the integration of Travancore and Cochin on July 1, 1949.
The region of British Malabar, was a district of the Madras Province. It continued to be under the State of Madras after independence. The Malabar District was being represented in the Madras Legislative Assembly and several legislations were made there safeguarding the welfare of the region in general and the various interests in particular. The Malabar Tenency Act of 1930, with elaborate provisions to confer security of tenure on tenents was perhaps the most significant among them. The Madras Prohibition Act, 1937 was made applicable to Malabar in 1947. Madras Legislative Assembly was significantly represented with 29 members from Malabar in the first general elections to the assembly held in 1951.
On July 1, 1949, with their integration Travancore and Cochin ceased to be separate entities. A legislative Assembly of the new Travancore- Cochin State came into being with the Maharaja of Travancore as the Head of the State. The legislation by the new representative body was extensive and underlined land reforms and public welfare. Examples are The Travancore- Cochin Government Land Assignment Act, 1950, The Travancore Cochin Land Development Act, 1950, The Travancore -Cochin Temple Entry (Removal of Disabilities) Act, 1950, The Travancore -Cochin Co-operative Socities Act,1950, The Travancore- Cochin Maternity Benifit Act, 1952, The Travancore -Cochin Public Health Act,1955, the Kanam Tenancy Act, 1955 etc.
On November 1, 1956 the state of Kerala was formed by the integration of Travancore- Cochin and Malabar. Marking the continuation of a glorious tradition of representative bodies and the beginning of the widely represented Legislative Assembly, the first Kerala Legislative Assembly was formed on April 1, 1957. In the years spreading across the period from 1957 to 2006 (First KLA to Eleventh KLA) the Kerala Legislative Assembly has served as a model for progressive and reformative legislation in diverse areas with bearings on social, political, and economic environment. The major fields which have been covered by these legislative outputs include land reforms, labour welfare, Public Service Commission, Education, Resource mobilisation, local bodies, social welfare etc.