EC has a Plan B for simultaneous polls: One year, one election

While the EC has reiterated its support for holding simultaneous polls, provided the legal and financial challenges are overcome, it is also learnt to have alternatively suggested that all the elections due in a year may be held together.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: May 24, 2018 8:59:37 am
Election Commission has a Plan B for simultaneous polls: One year, one election The poll panel floated the idea in its response to a letter from the Law Commission on April 24 in which the latter had sought the EC’s views on aligning all state elections with the Lok Sabha polls.

The Election Commission (EC) has suggested “one year one election” as an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pitch for “one nation one election”, The Indian Express has learnt.

The poll panel floated the idea in its response to a letter from the Law Commission on April 24 in which the latter had sought the EC’s views on aligning all state elections with the Lok Sabha polls.

The Law Commission had asked for the EC’s position on five Constitutional issues, and 15 sociopolitical and economic issues, that need to be addressed before the government can gear up to hold simultaneous polls.

Read | Law Commission backs simultaneous polls, seeks views 

While the EC has reiterated its support for holding simultaneous polls, provided the legal and financial challenges are overcome, it is also learnt to have alternatively suggested that all the elections due in a year may be held together.

Currently, the Commission conducts elections together for states where the term of assemblies end within a few months of each other. This is because Section 15 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, prohibits the EC from notifying elections more than six months before the term of a state assembly is about to expire.

Explained | Simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and Assembly: How idea came, what implementation will mean

Although the terms of seven state assemblies ended in 2017, the EC had to conduct elections for five states (Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa) in one go and the remaining (Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh) later in the year. This is because terms of the Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa assemblies ended in early 2017, and that of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh much later in the same year.

According to sources, accomplishing “one year one election” will be easier as it doesn’t require as many legal amendments as simultaneous polls for which the Centre will have to make five amendments to the Constitution.

According to the EC, Article 83, which deals with the duration of Houses of Parliament, will have to be tweaked, along with Article 85 (dissolution of Lok Sabha by the President), Article 172 (duration of state legislatures), Article 174 (dissolution of state assemblies) and Article 356 (President’s Rule), to facilitate simultaneous polls.

Read | President Ram Nath Kovind in House, PM Modi outside: Time for simultaneous polls

Speaking to The Indian Express, S K Mendiratta, former legal advisor to EC, said the suggestion for “one year one election” can be executed by amending Section 15 of the RP Act 1951. “If the six-month stipulation is extended to nine or 10 months, elections to all states, whose term is expiring in one year, can be held together,” he said.

“The proviso to Section 73 of the RP Act 1951 clearly says that even if the poll results are declared before the actual expiration date, the concerned state assembly can complete its term. So, if all elections in a year are clubbed together, the terms of state assemblies, which are expiring later in the year, need not be curtailed. They can complete their term that year and the new government can be sworn in after that,” he said.

The EC, as first reported by The Indian Express, expressed its support for simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Assemblies in 2016. On May 16 this year, it reiterated its support for the idea in a meeting with members of the Law Commission.

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