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Monday 20 January 2020

Law Commission endorses simultaneous polls idea with caveats

The Law Commission document prescribed that the leader of the majority party be elected prime minister or chief minister by the entire House

New Delhi: As the Narendra Modi government toys with the idea of holding simultaneous polls to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies under his motto “one nation, one election”, the Law Commission has recommended a tough legal framework for such a gigantic exercise. The Law Commission, in its draft recommendations made last August, recommended amendments to the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act to ensure simultaneous elections.

Simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies can be held in two phases, provided at least two provisions of the Constitution are amended and ratified by the majority of the States, the Commission had recommended.

Agreeing with the view of the Law Commission, former chief election commissioner TS Krishnamurthy said the ‘one nation one election’ idea is very attractive but cannot be put into practice without a constitutional amendment providing for a fixed tenure for legislatures.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday discussed with heads of various political parties that have at least one MP either in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, the issue of one nation, one election.

Krishnamurthy, who oversaw the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, said a lot of administrative arrangements, including increasing the strength of paramilitary forces for poll duties, might be required for holding simultaneous elections but they are possible.

The idea has several advantages, he said, but the biggest impediment in its implementation is constitutional provision relating to no-confidence motion and related issues.

“The only way out is amendment by which you say… a vote of confidence will be effective only if some other person is elected as a leader; otherwise, the old government will continue. Unless you provide for a fixed tenure of the House, itís not possible,” Krishnamurthy said.

… Transitional provisions may be required because some Houses would have had two-and-half years (of its tenure), some would have had four-and-half years, like that. The transitional provision providing for extending the (tenure of) Houses to a common date may be required, the former chief election commissioner said.

The Law Commission document prescribed that the leader of the majority party be elected prime minister or 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 report 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 implement the move.

It suggested that in case a government fell mid-term, the term of the new government would be for the remaining period ìand 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 a majority of the States, such ratification could be obtained for the proposed (constitutional) amendment, the report said.

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