Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi floated the idea of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies, the Law Commission has come out with a recommendation that may be the first step towards a tectonic shift in the way elections are held in India. The Commission has suggested that elections can be held together, provided at least two provisions of the Constitution are amended and ratified by a majority of the states. The Commission further suggested that some provisions of the Representation of People Act will have to be amended by a simple majority in Parliament.
The move, part of the Commission’s “Darft Working Paper – Simultaneous Elections – Constitution and Legal Perspectives”, proposes amending the Constitution (Articles 83 (2) and 172 (1) dealing with tenures of Lok Sabha and state assemblies) and the Representation of People Act to extend the terms of state legislative assemblies to effect the move.
The Commission has made public its working paper on holding simultaneous polls and sought the views of constitutional experts, political parties and other stakeholders before finalising its report. The people who are interested in placing their views on the issue can submit their stand to the Commission by May 8. As per the working paper, the second phase of simultaneous polls can take place in 2024.
The panel’s draft document further said 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 elections can take place in two phases, the document suggested. The phase I can include a state where elections are due in 2021, these include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Phase 2 can cover the state of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Delhi and Punjab – holding elections in these states along with Lok Sabha polls will need 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.