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Kovind Committee Report on “One Nation One Election”


Why is it in the news?

  • The High-level committee headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind has recommended simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies as the first step and hold municipal and panchayat polls within 100 days of the general election in the next phase.
About Simultaneous Election

·       “One Nation, One Election” entails conducting elections for Lok Sabha, state Legislative Assemblies, and local bodies (municipalities and panchayats) concurrently, aiming for synchronization in the electoral process.

·       Simultaneous elections were historically practiced until 1967 but ceased due to political instability and constitutional amendments.

 Recommendation for Simultaneous Elections

  • The Committee suggests comprehensive amendments to the Constitution of India to facilitate the implementation of simultaneous elections.

First Constitution Amendment Bill:

  • This bill focuses on the transition to simultaneous elections and outlines procedures for conducting fresh elections before the completion of the stipulated five-year term.
  • It empowers Parliament to pass relevant legislation without mandatory consultation with state governments or ratification by state Assemblies.

Second Constitution Amendment Bill:

  • The second bill primarily addresses municipal and panchayat elections, along with the establishment of a Single Electoral Roll by the Election Commission of India.
  • Given the subject matter’s alignment with the State List, this bill requires ratification by more than half of India’s states.

Transition Process:

  • The proposed insertion of a new article—82A—into the Constitution lays down the procedural framework for transitioning to simultaneous elections.
  • It mandates that all Legislative Assemblies constituted after the designated date shall conclude upon Lok Sabha’s term expiration.

Expansion of Parliament’s Powers:

  • Parliament’s authority under Article 327 is recommended to be expanded to encompass the conduct of simultaneous elections, in addition to its existing jurisdiction over electoral matters.

Provisions for Dissolution Before Full Term:

  • The amendments proposed for Articles 83 and 172 outline procedures in cases where Lok Sabha or state Assemblies are dissolved before completing their full term.
  • This includes defining the remaining period as the “unexpired term” and specifying the duration of replacement legislative bodies until simultaneous elections are conducted.

Inclusion of Union Territories:

  • The report suggests amendments to laws governing legislative Assemblies in Union Territories to ensure their elections align with the simultaneous poll framework.

Simultaneous Local Body Elections:

  • Recommendations entail empowering Parliament to oversee municipal and panchayat elections in conjunction with General Elections.
  • Additionally, the creation of a Single Electoral Roll by the Election Commission is proposed to streamline the electoral registration process.

Ratification Requirement:

  • Due to the subject matter’s inclusion in the State List, the amendments pertaining to municipal and panchayat elections necessitate ratification by states, ensuring cooperative federalism in implementing the proposed reforms.

The proposal aims to address various challenges

  • Economic efficiency: Reducing government expenditure and political parties’ costs incurred during multiple elections.
  • Stability and certainty: Minimizing disruptions to governance, businesses, and citizens’ lives caused by frequent elections.
  • Administrative effectiveness: Easing logistical burdens on government machinery and security forces.
  • Policy continuity: Reducing interruptions due to Model Code of Conduct (MCC) imposition during election periods.
  • Voter engagement: Mitigating “voter fatigue” and enhancing participation through streamlined electoral processes.
Concerns and clarifications

 Violation of Constitution:

·       Concern: Critics argue that simultaneous elections violate the Constitution by necessitating premature dissolution of state Legislative Assemblies, contradicting the fixed terms mandated by the Constitution.

·       Clarification: The report highlights instances of early dissolution due to political instability and asserts that Articles 83 and 172 don’t specify a minimum term of five years. It emphasizes that simultaneous elections don’t infringe upon fundamental constitutional principles like free and fair elections or citizens’ rights.

Democratic Principles:

·       Concern: Opponents suggest that One Nation, One Election would disrupt the electoral process and infringe upon citizens’ rights.

·       Clarification: The report refutes this claim, asserting that simultaneous elections optimize time and resources, reduce reliance on financial resources, and promote better governance by discouraging populist measures. It maintains that citizens’ rights to vote and participate in elections remain unaffected.

Undermining Federalism:

·       Concern: Critics argue that simultaneous elections undermine states’ rights.

·       Clarification: The report cites Articles 327 and 328, highlighting Parliament’s authority over election provisions and states’ power to legislate regarding their Legislative Assemblies. It asserts that simultaneous elections do not impede these constitutional rights granted to states.

Hung Parliament/Assembly Resolution:

·       Concern: Some parties raise concerns about the lack of provisions in One Nation, One Election to address hung Parliaments/Assemblies.

·       Clarification: The report refers to the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations, suggesting solutions for handling hung situations. It outlines steps for the Governor to follow, including inviting pre-election coalitions, the largest party with support, post-election coalitions, or forming a government with majority confidence. It emphasizes the importance of the government and its leader having the confidence of the House.

 

 

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