Law Panel Proposes Tough Legal Framework For Simultaneous Polls

Law panel put the working paper on simultaneous polls in public domain today, and sought views from experts.

Supporters of various parties carry flags bearing the parties’ emblems during a state election rally in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. (Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
Supporters of various parties carry flags bearing the parties’ emblems during a state election rally in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. (Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Simultaneous elections to the 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 majority of the states, the Law Commission said today.

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.

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.

States which will come under phase II are Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Delhi and Punjab. To hold elections in these states along with Lok Sabha polls, the terms of the assemblies have to be extended.

Based on a suggestion made by the Election Commission, the working paper also says that a no-confidence motion against the government should be followed by a confidence motion. This would ensure that if the opposition does not have numbers to form an alternative government, the regime in office cannot be removed.

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 constitutional amendment to [changing] the law, all the process will take time.
Om Prakash Rawat, Chief Election Commissioner

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.