Panel on Simultaneous Polls invites suggestions

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

The panel on 'One Nation, One Election', led by former President Ram Nath Kovind, has invited suggestions from the public for making appropriate changes in the existing legal administrative framework to enable simultaneous elections in the country.

About the news:

  • The committee has held two meetings since it was constituted in September 2023.
  • It had written to political parties seeking their views on a "mutually agreed date" to discuss holding national, State and local polls simultaneously.
  • The committee has also heard the views of the Law Commission on simultaneous polls.
  • The committee said that the suggestions posted on the committee's website or sent by e-mail by January 15 would be considered.
  • The Terms of reference of the committee:
    • The committee is tasked with examining and recommending amendments to the Constitution, Representation of the People Act, 1950, and 1951, as well as any other laws or rules that would require such amendments for simultaneous elections to the House of the People, State Legislative Assemblies, Municipalities, and Panchayats, while considering the existing framework.

Meaning of Simultaneous Election:

  • The “Simultaneous election or One Nation, One Election” in India aims to synchronise elections for the Lok Sabha and all state assemblies. The idea is to hold these elections simultaneously, on a single day or within a specific time frame.
  • In India, the general elections to elect the members of Parliament and state assembly polls are held separately when the incumbent Government's tenure ends, or it gets dissolved for some reason.

History of Simultaneous Elections:

  • In India, simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha (House of The People) and Vidhan Sabhas (State Legislative Assemblies) were held in the years 1951-52, 1957, 1962 and 1967.
  • Thereafter, however, the schedule could not be maintained, and the elections to the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas have still not been realigned.

Constitutional provisions for holding simultaneous elections:

  • In the 2018 report, the Law Commission headed by Justice B S Chauhan held that simultaneous elections could not be held within the existing framework of the Constitution.
  • These could be held together “through appropriate amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act 1951, and the Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

The articles that would require Amendment are:

  • Article 83 (2): The Lok Sabha's term should not exceed five years but may be dissolved sooner.
  • Article 85 (2) (B): A dissolution ends the very life of the existing House and a new House is constituted after general elections.
  • Article 172 (1): A state assembly, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years.
  • Article 174 (2) (B): The Governor has the power to dissolve the assembly on the aid and advice of the cabinet. The governor can apply his mind when the advice comes from a Chief Minister whose majority is in doubt.
  • Article 356: Imposition of President's Rule in states.

Views on Simultaneous Election:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI): In 1983, in its Annual Report, the ECI recommended holding simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. This recommendation stemmed from several compelling reasons:
    • Significant cost savings by avoiding the substantial administrative expenses incurred during separate Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly elections.
    • The entire administrative set-up throughout the country slows down considerably during the Lok Sabha or the Assemblies elections, and all other normal functions and activities of the Government, including developmental work, are pushed to the background.
  • Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice: It submitted a report on the feasibility of holding simultaneous elections in 2015. Its recommendations are as follows:
    • Holding of elections in two phases: The elections could be held in two phases. The elections to some assemblies could be held during the midterm of Lok Sabha. The polls to the remaining Legislative Assemblies could be held at the end of Lok Sabha’s term. The term of some assemblies would have to be shortened, while the remaining could be extended to hold simultaneous elections.
    • Schedule of next cycle of elections: The elections to all state assemblies, whose terms end within six months to one year before or after the appointed election date, can be clubbed together.
    • Schedule of Bye-elections: The committee recommended that by-elections to all seats that become vacant during a year may be conducted together during a predetermined time.
    • Conditions for holding early elections: To hold early elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, either a motion for an early poll must be agreed to by at least two-thirds of all members of the House, or a no-confidence motion must be passed by the House and with no alternative government being confirmed within 14 days of passing a confidence motion.
  • NITI Aayog:
    • In 2017, the NITI Aayog released a paper titled ‘Election Time Table’, discussing the feasibility of simultaneous elections. 
    • NITI Aayog backed the idea of simultaneous State and National polls to remove impediments to governance, policy-making, and developmental activities.
    • It noted that there has not been a year without an election to either a State Assembly, Lok Sabha, or both in over 30 years. It adversely impacts both tangible and intangible within the larger sphere of governance.

Way Forward:

Whether simultaneous elections should be held in India or not is a complex decision that involves constitutional, logistical, and political considerations, and any decision should be made after thorough deliberation and consensus-building among various stakeholders, including political parties, State Governments, and the ECI. On a pilot basis, an attempt can be made to club as many Assembly elections as possible to be held together or with the Lok Sabha elections in one go and hope that the verdicts favour formation of a stable government


Mains PYQ

Q. ‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss. (UPSC 2017)

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