Simultaneous polls: Law panel proposes tough legal framework, seeks views

File Photo: PTI
Simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies can be held in two phases beginning 2019, provided at least two provisions of the Constitution are amended and ratified by the majority of the states, the Law Commission said on Tuesday.

Some provisions of the Representation of the People Act will also have to be amended by a simple majority in Parliament, it said.

Putting up its working paper on holding simultaneous polls in public domain today, the law panel has sought the views of constitutional experts, political parties and other stakeholders before finalising its report.

Those interested in placing their views on the issue have been asked to submit their stand by May 8. According to the working paper, the second phase of simultaneous polls can take place in 2024.

What are simultaneous Elections?

Simultaneous Elections would imply elections taking place for all three tiers of the government in a synchronised manner. However, the Commission’s paper only deals with elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies since elections to local bodies is a State subject.

The Commission has placed reliance on its own reports of 1983 and 1999, the Report of Parliamentary Standing Committee of 2015 and a 2017 Working Paper of Niti Aayog. The Commission also states that the system of simultaneous elections exists in foreign countries like South Africa, Sweden, Belgium etc.

Recommendations listed by Law Commission
  • The document states that the leader of the majority party be elected prime minister or the chief minister by the entire house (Lok Sabha or state assembly) to ensure the stability of the government as well as the Lok Sabha or the assembly.
  • The document has proposed amending the Constitution (Articles 83 (2) and 172 (1) dealing with tenures of Lok Sabha and state assemblies) and the Representation of the People Act to extend the terms of state legislative assemblies to effect the move.
  • It suggests that in case a government falls mid-term, the term of the new government would be for the remaining period "and not for a fresh five-year term".
  • "As an abundant caution and in order to avoid a challenge (in the courts) to amendments on the ground of not having obtained ratification by majority of the states, such ratification could be obtained for the proposed (constitutional) amendment," the working paper states.
  • The states which are recommended to be covered under phase I are where assembly polls are due in 2021. These include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
  • Simultaneous Recommendations may be restored in the nation by amending the Constitution, the Representation of People Act, 1951 and Rules of Procedure of Lok Sabha and those of State Legislative Assemblies.
  • A definition of “simultaneous elections” may be added to Section 2 of the 1951 Act.
  • “No-confidence motion” be replaced with “constructive vote of no-confidence” by amending Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha and a new Rule in the form of 198-a be added. A similar amendment is required in the Rules of Procedure of State Assemblies.
Who said what about simultaneous polls

On January 29, in his first address to Parliament, President Kovind marked the beginning of the Budget session by making a strong pitch for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

President's remarks echoed Prime Minister Modi who has been advocating simultaneous polls citing expenses, deployment of forces and other arrangements while pointing out that elections consume time, energy and money.

Election Commission on simultaneous Elections

Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat had a word of caution on simultaneous polls when he recently said that the legal framework required for holding of the two elections together would take a lot of time to get ready.

"We cannot put the cart before the horse. Logistical issues are subservient to legal framework. Unless legal framework is in place, we don't have to talk about anything else because legal framework will take a lot of time, making a constitutional amendment to (changing) the law, all the process will take time, he said.

He had said once the legal framework is ready, the EC would deliver. EC is a creation of the Constitution. We have to perform willy-nilly, deliver the election, whatever way prescribed in the law, he had said.