Monday, May 20, 2024 | Last Update : 05:25 PM IST

  India   Politics  15 Mar 2024  Kovind panel recommends simultaneous polls, common electoral roll

Kovind panel recommends simultaneous polls, common electoral roll

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Mar 15, 2024, 1:40 am IST
Updated : Mar 15, 2024, 1:40 am IST

The committee has recommended that there should be a single electoral roll and Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) for use in elections

Ram Nath Kovind, Chairman of the High-Level Committee (HLC) on 'One Nation, One Election', presents the report to President Droupadi Murmu, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 14, 2024. Two of the committee members, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and DPAP leader Ghulam Nabi Azad are also seen. (PTI Photo)
 Ram Nath Kovind, Chairman of the High-Level Committee (HLC) on 'One Nation, One Election', presents the report to President Droupadi Murmu, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 14, 2024. Two of the committee members, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and DPAP leader Ghulam Nabi Azad are also seen. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The high-level committee on simultaneous elections headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind has backed the “One Nation One Election (ONOE)” concept, simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies as the first step, followed by synchronised local body polls within 100 days of the parliamentary and Assembly elections.

The committee has recommended that there should be a single electoral roll and Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) for use in elections to all the three tiers of government.

The Kovind committee on Thursday submitted its 18,626-page report to President Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Kovind was accompanied by the panel members, including home minister Amit Shah, former Finance Commission chairman N.K. Singh, former Lok Sabha secretary-general Subhash Kashyap, former Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.

Amit Shah termed the recommendation as “a historic day” for the country’s democratic system while the Congress alleged that the BJP wanted to “completely dismantle the Constitution” with the objective of  “one nation, no election”.

A statement by the law ministry said the committee crafted its recommendations in such a way that they are in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution and would require the bare minimum amendments to the Constitution, even as legal experts raised doubts over its applicability.

“The simultaneous elections will bring fundamental transformation in the election process and overall governance. It will result in optimising scarce resources and encourage voters to participate in large numbers,” said the report.

The committee recommended that fresh elections could be held to constitute a new Lok Sabha in the event of a hung House or a no-confidence motion, or any such event. Where fresh elections are held for the Lok Sabha, the tenure of the House will be “only for the unexpired (remaining) term of the immediately preceding full term of the House”, the report said.

When fresh elections are held for state Assemblies, then such new Assemblies — unless sooner dissolved — shall continue up to the end of the full term of the Lok Sabha.

To bring into force such a mechanism, Article 83 (duration of Houses of Parliament) and Article 172 (duration of state legislatures) need to be amended, the committee said.

“This constitutional amendment will not need ratification by the states,” the committee said, adding Article 325 dealing with voters’ lists may be suitably amended for the purpose.

At present, the EC is responsible for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, while local body polls for municipalities and panchayats are managed by state election commissions. The panel recommended several constitutional amendments, most of which will not need ratification by the states.

“Now, several elections are being held every year. This casts a huge burden on the government, businesses, workers, courts, political parties, candidates contesting elections and civil society at large," the panel said. It added that the government must develop a “legally tenable mechanism” to restore the cycle of simultaneous elections.

Responses were sought from 47 political parties. Barring 15, the remaining 32 political parties favoured simultaneous elections, the committee said in its report. However, three former high court chief justices and one former state election commissioner were among those who objected. The Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and CPI(M) opposed the proposal, while the BJP and National People's Party supported it.

The Bahujan Samaj Party did not explicitly oppose it, but highlighted concerns regarding the large territorial extent and population of the country, which could make implementation challenging, said the report. The Samajwadi Party, in its submission, said if simultaneous elections are implemented, state-level parties will not be able to compete with national parties in electoral strategy and expenditure, leading to increased discord between these two sets of parties.

According to the report, all four former Supreme Court Chief Justices — Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde and Justice U.U. Lalit — favoured holding simultaneous elections.  Among the former chief justices of major High Court, nine supported simultaneous elections while three raised concerns or objections.

Among these are former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, who noted it may curb democratic expression along with concerns about distorted voting patterns and state-level political alterations, former Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Girish Chandra Gupta, who felt the idea was not conducive to the principles of democracy, and Justice Sanjib Banerjee, former Chief Justice, Madras High Court, who had concerns that it would undermine India's federal structure and be prejudicial to regional issues.

The panel studied election processes in six countries, including South Africa, Sweden and Belgium, before recommending simultaneous polls for the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies in India. The other countries where simultaneous elections are conducted are Germany, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Belgium.

Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan said: “If they have to implement it as they suggest in the report, they want to include and insert an Article to bring about the change — that would require an amendment of the Constitution with two-thirds majority, plus also half the states giving their consent. So, it is a fairly long process. I think they have looked at it in a simplistic, straightforward manner, looking at only tenures. They should also look at all the various provisions of the Constitution, including emergency powers, President's powers, President’s Rule, etc, which will need to be altered and changed. Until you do that comprehensive exercise, I think it may be shortsighted. On a practical plane, I think it makes no sense at all because we have seen how governments are created, Parliaments and legislatures have been created in last 75 years. We haven't seen any particular problem that needs to be fixed… In my view, it is thoroughly impractical and completely unnecessary.”

Tags: ram nath kovind, one nation one election, electoral photo identity cards
Location: India, Delhi