Law Commission supports simultaneous polls

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New Delhi, Aug 30 (IANS) The Law Commission of India on Thursday came out strongly in support of simultaneous parliamentary and state assembly elections, stating that the process can be initiated from 2019 itself by holding 13 assembly polls along with the Lok Sabha elections.

The polls to the remaining 17 assemblies (including Union Territory of Puducherry) can be held in 2021 for a term of 30 months to make them synchronous with the rest of the states and Lok Sabha elections in 2024, it said.

In its draft report released on Thursday, the law panel has set aside reservations by many opposition parties as having no merit and quoting from one of Shakespeare’s plays emphasized that “to do a great right it is permissible sometimes to do a little wrong”.

“Time has come for India to revert to simultaneous elections in the greater national interest. Thus the Commission recommends holding of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies,” the Commission said in the draft report.

On the apprehensions expressed by a number of opposition parties regarding democracy, basic structure of the Constitution and federalism, etc if simultaneous polls are held, the law panel said it did not find any of these apprehensions having a basis.

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“Holding simultaneous elections, by no means, affects democratic set-up of India. It cannot be argued that holding simultaneous elections would adversely interfere with the basic structure of the Constitution,” it said in the report.

“Similarly, as the process of simultaneous elections does not alter any of the entries in the three Lists contained in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, and it does not interfere with legislative competence of the Centre or the states, the contention that it would tinker with the concept of federalism is devoid of any merit,” it added.

Suggesting to start synchronising state polls with that Lok Sabha elections, the Commission came up with three formulae.

As a first option, it said, elections to 12 state assemblies and one Union Territory with legislature (Delhi) could be synchronised with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Since elections to the assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim and Telangana are due with the Lok Sabha polls, they stand synchronised.

“If there is political will, elections to the assemblies of Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Delhi (which will mean curtailment of their terms) can also be held along with Lok Sabha and the five states mentioned above in 2019,” it said.

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“In case of the other four states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan, where elections are due in early January of 2019 and end of 2018, extension of up to six months is required to attain synchronisation with Lok Sabha elections in 2019, which will entail amendment to Article 172 of the Constitution,” it added.

It suggested that in the case of remaining 16 states and Puducherry (Union Territory with legislature), elections can be conducted towards the end of 2021…only for 30 months or till June 2024.

“Thereafter, elections to the Lok Sabha and all the state legislative assemblies and UTs with legislatures can be held together from 2024, completely synchronising the elections,” the Law Commission said.

As a second option, it has suggested holding elections twice every five years after elections to 13 assemblies are synchronised with that of Lok Sabha in 2019, with remaining 16 assemblies having simultaneous elections from 2021 onwards.

“Repeating the cycle of elections to Lok Sabha and 13 states in mid-2024 and elections to 17 assemblies by the end of 2026…will result in elections only twice in a period of five years,” it said.

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The third option suggested by the law panel is holding all elections due in one calendar year together “during such part of the year, which is conducive to all the states involved and/or the Lok Sabha”. Also it suggested holding all by-polls due in a calender year together.

It has recommended required constitutional amendments to this effect but stressed that the number such amendments be kept to the minimum possible.

In order to ensure that the cycle of simultaneous elections is not disrupted, the Commission has recommended that a House constituted upon the dissolution of the House before the expiration of its duration should continue only for the remainder of the term for which the dissolved House would have continued, had it not been so dissolved.

This could be achieved by adding a proviso to Articles 83(2) and 172(1) of the Constitution, it said.

However, the Commission has emphasised on building a consensus on the issue in the general public and particularly among the politcal parties.

–IANS

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