Simultaneous elections would cost government “thousands of crores”, says law ministry

The ministry of law and justice also added that it would require bringing amendments to at least five articles of the Constitution

Law Commission of India (Photo: NH File Photo)
Law Commission of India (Photo: NH File Photo)

Ashlin Mathew

Simultaneous Assembly and Parliament elections would cost the government “thousands of crores” and would require bringing amendments to at least five articles of the Constitution, said the ministry of Law and justice.

In a response to Rajya Sabha BJP MP Kirodi Lal Meena, the union minister of law and justice Arjun Ram Meghwal said the major impediments in bringing simultaneous Parliament elections and Assembly elections are fivefold, of which the major one being “bringing amendments in not less than five articles of Constitution”.

The government will have to amend Article 83, which is related to the duration of Houses of Parliament; Article 85 related to dissolution of the House of the People by the President; Article 172 related to duration of the state legislatures; Article 174 related to dissolution of the state legislatures and Article 356, which is related to the imposition of President’s rule in the states.

The government will also have to obtain consensus of all political parties. Additionally, as India follows a federal structure of governance, “it is imperative that consensus of all state governments is also obtained”, stated Meghal in his response.

The minister also highlighted that such an election procedure would require additional number of EVMs/VVPATs, which would cost a huge amount, might be in thousands of crores. “Considering that life of machine is only fifteen years, this would imply that machine would be used for about three or four times in its life span, entailing huge expenditure in its replacement after every fifteen years,” said Meghwal.

Finally, the law ministry noted that simultaneous elections would require additional polling personnel and security forces.

However, the government added that such simultaneous elections would result in huge savings to the public exchequer, avoidance of replication of effort on the part of administrative and law and order machinery in holding repeated elections and bring considerable savings to political parties and candidates in their election campaigns.

“Asynchronous Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly elections (including bye-election) result in prolonged enforcement of Model Code of Conduct with its concomitant adverse impact on developmental and welfare programmes,” stated the minister in his response to Meena.

The Parliament standing committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice had examined the issue of simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies in consultation with various stakeholders including the Election Commission of India. The Committee has given certain recommendations in this regard in its 79th report. The matter has now been referred to the Law Commission for further examination to work out a practicable road map and framework.

The 21st Law Commission of India headed by Justice BS Chauhan has released in its draft report, on simultaneous elections in 2018, where the Commission noted that simultaneous elections cannot be held within the existing framework of the Constitution.

The Commission had then noted that holding simultaneous elections would save public money, reduce burden on the administrative setup and security forces, ensure timely implementation of government policies, and ensure that the administrative machinery is engaged in developmental activities rather than electioneering. 

Based on this draft report, the current 22nd Law Commission headed by retired Justice Rituraj Awasthi, former Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, had resolved that it would again seek the opinion of the stakeholders including national political parties, the Election Commission of India, bureaucrats, academicians and experts on the six questions put forth by the 21st Law Commission in its draft report.

The six questions that the law panel has framed are:

1. Will holding simultaneous elections, by any means tinker with the democracy, basic structure of the Constitution or the federal polity of the country?

2. The suggestions given by various Committees and Commissions to deal with the situation of hung Parliament/Assembly, where no political party has majority to form a government, propose that the Prime Minister/ Chief Minister may be appointed or selected in the same manner as a Speaker of the House / Assembly is elected. Will it be possible? If so, will it be in consonance and in conformity with the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution?

3. Will such an appointment or selection of the Prime Minister/Chief Minister by consensus amongst the political parties/elected members require amendment to Tenth Schedule to the Constitution? If so, to what extent?

4. What other Articles of the Constitution may require amendment(s)/insertion of new clauses or Articles, other than those discussed in the Draft Report?

5. Are there any other issue(s) apart from those discussed in the Draft Report that would require elaborate study?

6. Do any of the suggestions made in the draft report of the 21st Law Commission violate the Constitutional scheme? If so, to what extent?

The Commission had sought responses to these queries by January 16, 2023. There has been no update on the matter since then.

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