One Nation one Ellection
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This article is written by Amit Garg of National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi. This article explains ‘One Nation One Election’ policy.

One Nation One Election

One Nation One Election is one of the major growing concept in India which requires a total change in the structure of conducting elections within India. The basic idea behind this concept is to conduct a single election for the Lok Sabha, the State Legislatures and the Panchayats in place of series of elections done regularly over a period of time. This concept is increasingly growing popular within India as many political leaders have put forth their views over its application within India which includes Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India), former President of India Pranab Mukherjee and also Ram Nath Kovind (President of India). The latest pitch for a common electoral roll has been raised by the Law Commission of India which seems eager in implementing the policy and voiced the concerns with the Election Commission of India. A National Seminar was held in Mumbai in January 2018 by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini to echo Modi’s call of ‘One Nation One Election’.

India witnesses about 5-7 State Assembly Elections at an average every year. Elections in India for the Lok Sabha, the State Assemblies and the Panchayats are held every 5 years. Elections in India are conducted and regulated by the Election Commission of India whose head is a Chief Election Commissioner. A Chief Election Commissioner is elected for a term of 6 years and is appointed by the President of India.

The objective of this report is to study the feasibility of implementation of ‘One Nation One Election’ in India. To implement a certain policy in a country, various pros and cons of the policy need to be evaluated. So, this policy of One Nation One Election needs to be evaluated by taking into consideration all the parameters and its pros and cons needs to be weighted based on a detailed study and research. We will also look into the relevant provisions of the Constitution and various statutes the needs to be amended in order to implement the policy of ‘One Nation One Election’.

The government if decides to complete its full term till May 2019 then there are three phrases that can lead to conduction of elections for more than half of the states simultaneously.

  1. Dissolve the state legislatures of four states (Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan) by imposing President’s Rule and extending the period for 6 months so that the date for elections may fall near May 2019.
  2. Five states (Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim) have due date for elections in April 2019.
  3. If elections are pulled back for about 6 to 8 months by dissolving the state legislatures of four states (Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Delhi), then the election dates of these states shall coincide with the Lok Sabha elections in May 2019.

History

India got its independence from the British rule on 15 August 1947. It took around 2 years for India to prepare the longest written constitution of the world that will govern all the aspects of the country. On 26 January 1950, India became republic as the Constitution came into force on this date. To run the country, a representative body was must that would represent the will of the people. To form this representative body, general elections were held for the first time in India in the year 1952. India being run by a three-tier government, the elections were held for both the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies of the respective states simultaneously.

India is not new to the concept of simultaneous elections. The elections were held once and for all; the Lok Sabha and the State Legislatures. India carried on the simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies which continued for three subsequent general elections. The instances for simultaneous elections can be seen in the election conducted for the period of 1957, 1962, and 1967 barring the first general elections held in 1951-52. This cycle of simultaneous elections was disrupted due premature dissolution of:

  • Haryana Legislative Assembly in 1968,
  • Bihar and West Bengal Legislative Assemblies in 1969, and
  • Lok Sabha in 1970.

So for three consecutive general elections, the Lok Sabha enjoyed a full term at the office along with simultaneous elections with the State Legislative Assemblies.

Duration of Each Lok Sabha In India

Lok Sabha Date of Constitution Date of Dissolution Duration
First 2 April 1952 4 April 1957 5 years
Second 5 April 1957 31 March 1962 5 years
Third 2 April 1962 3 March 1967 5 years
Fourth 4 March 1967 27 December 1970 3 years & 10 months
Fifth 15 March 1971 18 January 1977 5 years & 10 months
Sixth 23 March 1977 22 August 1979 2 years & 5 months
Seventh 10 January 1980 31 December 1984 5 years
Eighth 31 December 1984 27 November 1989 5 years
Ninth 2 December 1989 13 March 1991 1 year & 3 months
Tenth 20 June 1991 10 May 1996 5 years
Eleventh 15 May 1996 4 December 1997 1 year & 6 months
Twelfth 10 March 1998 26 April 1999 1 year & 1 month
Thirteenth 10 October 1999 6 February 2004 4 years & 4 months
Fourteenth 17 May 2004 18 May 2009 5 years
Fifteenth 18 May 2009 18 May 2014 5 years
Sixteenth 18 May 2014 NA NA

In the year 2014, India voted for the constitution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The election period lasted for a period of over two months. After the constitution of the 16th Lok Sabha, there has been a series of election for each legislative assembly till 2018.

Following is a table showing the elections held for states in each year after the 2014 General Elections.

Year State Legislative Assemblies
2014
  1. Andhra Pradesh (April)
  2. Arunachal Pradesh (April)
  3. Odisha (April)
  4. Sikkim (April)
  5. Maharashtra (Sept.)
  6. Haryana (Sept.)
  7. Jharkhand (Nov.)
  8. Jammu & Kashmir(Nov.)
2015
  1. Delhi (Feb.)
  2. Bihar (Nov.)
2016
  1. Assam (April)
  2. West Bengal (May)
  3. Kerala (May)
  4. Puducherry (May)
  5. Assam (May)
2017
  1. Punjab (Feb.)
  2. Goa (Feb.)
  3. Uttarakhand (Feb.)
  4. Uttar Pradesh (Feb.)
  5. Manipur (March)
  6. Presidential Elections (July)
  7. Vice-Presidential Elections (Aug.)
  8. Himachal Pradesh (Nov.)
  9. Gujarat (Dec.)
2018
  1. Tripura (Feb.)
  2. Meghalaya (Feb.)
  3. Nagaland (Feb.)
  4. Karnataka (May)
  5. Mizoram (Dec.) (Due)
2019 (Due)
  • Chhattisgarh (Jan.)
  • Madhya Pradesh (Jan.)
  • Rajasthan (Jan.)

Thus, we can see that India happens to conduct large number of elections every year and this cycle of election keeps on and on as the elections are repeated every 5 years.

Effect on Constitutional and Statutory Provisions

Implementation of ‘One Nation One Election’ is a handful task to perform. The Constitution of India being rigidly not rigid always creates a doubt in the mind of every individual. The constitution makers have given the Parliamentarians the option to amend the Constitution but the process being so lengthy and cumbersome that the idea of amending the constitution seems a farce. But still the process of amending the constitution is not impossible. In order to implement the policy of ‘One Nation One Election’, there are certain amendments that needs to be effectuated so that a single election can be conducted both for the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies.

The articles of the Constitution that needs to be amended to implement this policy are discussed below.

Article 83

Article 83 of the Constitution of India provides for the duration of both the Houses of the Parliament, Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and House of People (Lok Sabha).

This article says that the Council of states shall not be subject to dissolution unless one-third of its members retire as soon as the expiry of every second year. This dissolution shall be subject to the provisions made in this behalf by the Parliament.

The article continues to talk about the duration of the House of People. It says that the House of people shall continue to function for a period of 5 years unless dissolved earlier.

The Parliament is subject to the Proclamation of Emergency, i.e., in case of emergency, the term of the two houses can extend for a maximum period of one year.

Article 172

Article 172 spells out the duration of the State Legislatures. It says that every State Legislature shall continue to function for a period of 5 years unless dissolved earlier.

Every State Legislature is subject to the Proclamation of Emergency, i.e., in case of emergency, the term of the State Legislature can extend for a maximum period of one year.

Clause 2 of the Constitution says that the Legislative Council shall not be subject to dissolution unless one-third of the members retire as soon as the expiry of every second year. The dissolution is subject to provisions made by Parliament in this behalf.

Article 85

Article 85 (2)(b) of the Constitution empowers the President of India to dissolve the House of People. If the President may find it fit to dissolve the Lok Sabha, then he may by a proclamation and a notice to the Speaker of the House of People may dissolve such house.

Article 174 and Article 356

Article 174 (2)(b) of the Constitution empowers the Governor of the State to dissolve the Legislative Assembly. If the Governor may find it fit to dissolve the State Legislature, then he may be a proclamation and a notice to the Speaker of the State Legislature may dissolve such assembly. In case of emergency as under Article 356 of the Constitution, the state being under the President’s rule, the legislative assembly can be prematurely dissolved by the President of India.

The proclamation of President’s rule is significantly stringent in light of the Anti-Defection Act, 1985. In the case of S.R. Bommai v Union of India[1], the Supreme Court has laid down the guidelines that need to be followed in order to establish President’s Rule in a state. The guidelines are as follows:

  1. The dissolution of State Legislative Assembly by the President of India is subject to approval of both houses of Parliament; and
  2. The validity of proclamation of President’s Rule is subject to judicial review. In case the proclamation of emergency is mala fide, the court may set aside the President’s Rule and restore the original government.

Article 75

Article 75(3) of the Constitution says that the Council of Ministers shall be directly and collectively responsible to the House of People. The Council of Ministers derive their legitimacy from the Legislature and remains in power as long as it enjoys the confidence of the latter. A no-confidence motion can be passed if Lok Sabha loses confidence in the Council of Ministers. It can fall any time with the passage of non-confidence motion in that House.

Article 164

Article 164(2) of the Constitution says that the Council of Ministers shall be directly and collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State. The Council of Ministers remains in power as long as it enjoys the confidence of the assembly. A no-confidence motion can be passed if State Legislature loses confidence in the Council of Ministers. It can fall any time with the passage of non-confidence motion in that assembly.

Article 324

This article empowers the Election Commission of India to supervise, direct and control elections to Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Councils.

Ten Schedule

The 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India which deals with Anti Defection Law. It prohibits the MP or an MLA from disobeying a party Whip on voting for a motion. It particularly lays down the grounds on which a MP or an MLA can be disqualified. A member is disqualified when he/she voluntarily gives up the membership of a party to join an opposing party.

The Representation of People Act, 1951

In addition to the powers given to the Election Commission of India to conduct the elections in India, the Parliament has enacted the Representation of People Act, 1951 which covers the various modalities of conducting elections in India. This act lays down every detail with regard to conducting elections in India, like method of counting, result declaration, resolution of disputes, etc.

Thus, in order to effectuate the policy of ‘One Nation One Election’, the Parliament needs to bring an amendment to the above-mentioned provisions of the Constitution and statue so that there can be simultaneous elections in India. For the purpose of an amendment, the Parliamentarians must follow the rules laid down in Article 368 of the Constitution of India.

Pros and Cons of One Nation One Election

The very basis for implementing a policy in India is to evaluate its effect on the general public. The implementation of ‘One Nation One Election’ shall have wide scale implications not only on the functioning of the country but also on the various institutions, and largely on public. To evaluate the effect of the policy on general public, we will need to study the pros and cons of this policy.

Cons

Firstly, we will look into the cons of implementing ‘One Nation One Election’ in the country India. India being a very diverse country with a population of over one billion, the impact of a major policy change will have some bad effect on the public and even on the authorities right from the lower level to the top level authority. ‘One Nation One Election’ which seeks to achieve a complete overhaul in the election process of India has certain negative impact on the economy and the people. The negative impacts of this policy are:

  1. The constitution of India has laid the procedure and the authorities that shall take part in conducting elections in India. For the purpose of ‘One Nation One Election’, the government needs to amend various provisions of the Constitution and even various statutes that specifically deal with the purpose of elections. Amending of the Constitution or statutes is a very tedious task and the procedure is very difficult to follow.
  2. Election Commission of India is empowered to conduct elections and preparing electoral rolls for the Parliament and the State Legislatures, and the States are empowered with the power to conduct elections and prepare electoral rolls for the Panchayats and the municipal bodies. The idea of common electoral roll will create technical roadblocks as the Election Commission has frozen the delimitation of constituencies till 2031. In order to have a common electoral roll, the states also need to freeze the constituency boundaries to sync a uniform calendar with that of the Election Commission which requires amendment to the respective state laws.
  3. State has a limited area of operation to make an electoral roll. If the Election Commission takes over to make a common electoral roll, it will be difficult for them to reach out to the every Panchayati Institutions, municipal bodies and ward numbers in each state across the country and feed the data in a common database.
  4. Each tier of the government in India is democratically elected and the citizens, by choosing their representative by the means of elections have raised their voice through their representatives elected at each such office. If the idea of ‘One Nation One Election’ is implemented, the elected governments at the states and local bodies will have to either resign or be dismissed by the Central Government which will lead to revocation of President’s rule which will be against the guidelines as laid down in the S.R. Bommai case.
  5. Election for the Centre, the State Legislatures of 29 states and 2 Union Territories in a single phase will have adverse effects as it will totally paralyze the governance and disturb every aspect of life for that very period.
  6. For the purpose of conducting elections across India, a large number of police authorities will be required to fulfill the election demands. This will devoid the borders with necessary security personnel and the citizens with safeguard to their life and property. This is ultimately have adversely endangered the security and protection of the nation for the election period.
  7. The implementation of ‘One Nation One Election’ means that there is a great possibility of similar governments at both the state and centre level. It creates the problem of unfair voting as this can convert the nation being ruled by one party and no opposition in an action. This shall destroy the soul of the democracy on which this nation survives. The interests of the state and regional parties shall be overshadowed by the central ideas and policies. They will not be able to push their individual agenda.

Pros

Each policy has a good side and a bad side; it is like two sides of the same coin. After a detailed look at the cons of implementing ‘One Nation One Election’ in India, we will look at the advantages that this policy offers to the government, its authorities and the public. The pros of this policy are:

  1. Maintaining a common electoral roll for the Parliament, State Legislatures and the Panchayats will not only save time and money but it will also save the manpower that is invested in making rolls for each election. It will eliminate the duplication of names in the list and a uniform database can be maintained without any scope of error or double-counting.
  2. With a single election to all the governments, there will be reduction in election malpractices that prevails during of elections. People usually complaining of EVM hijack will be relieved as the Election Commission will now have to focus only once in five years and thus the improvement in conduction of elections.
  3. Election Commission is empowered with the duty to conduct and bear the expenses of the elections. There has been a general rise in cost of elections with every election that passes. With the EC is given the responsibility of conducting only one election in five years, the cost of bearing on EC will reduce.

    Source – https://data.gov.in/node/637561/download
  4. Expenses for conducting elections are not only incurred by the Election Commission but also by the Government at both the centre and at the state level. The Government of India is burdened with the expenses of conducting elections for the Lok Sabha. With every successive election there is a rise in the expenditure in conducting elections which is a burden on the exchequer. With the implementation of a single election in five years, there will be overall decline in the expenses incurred by the Government which they can utilize for the betterment of the people. If the elections are held simultaneously, then the expenditure is to be borne by the concerned State Government and Central Government on 50:50 basis. 

    Source – http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/pocket-book2017-ch8.aspx
    The expenses for conducting elections to the State Legislatures is to be borne by the concerned State Governments. With implementation of ‘One Nation One Election’, 50 percent of the cost will be borne by the Central Government. The following is the list of expenditure made by the State Governments for the last three years:
    Expenses incurred by State Governments in Elections

    Sr No. Name of State/UT 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
    1 Andhra Pradesh 1,70,000 1,70,000 7,40,000
    2 Arunachal Pradesh 0 1,00,000 90,000
    3 Assam 0 80,000 3,00,000
    4 Bihar 0 1,10,000 6,40,000
    5 Chhattisgarh 0 60,000 1,79,000
    6 Goa 1,33,100 1,10,000 80,000
    7 Gujarat 2,80,000 9,90,000 6,10,000
    8 Haryana 2,00,000 1,00,000 1,10,000
    9 Himachal Pradesh 1,00,000 1,60,000 1,10,000
    10 Jammu and Kashmir 0 60,000 3,40,000
    11 Jharkhand 5,00,000 4,24,000 3,20,000
    12 Karnataka 1,53,000 1,80,000 6,30,000
    13 Kerala 0 1,10,000 2,70,000
    14 Madhya Pradesh 0 1,10,000 3,40,000
    15 Maharashtra 0 1,10,000 13,30,000
    16 Manipur 0 1,00,000 18,000
    17 Meghalaya 62,700 1,10,000 1,20,000
    18 Mizoram 34,000 93,000 60,000
    19 Nagaland 60,000 1,10,000 30,000
    20 Odisha 1,30,000 1,80,000 2,50,000
    21 Punjab 2,70,000 1,20,000 2,90,000
    22 Rajasthan 3,60,000 4,18,000 4,90,000
    23 Sikkim 63,200 81,000 20,000
    24 Tamil Nadu 80,000 1,60,000 7,70,000
    25 Tripura 0 60,000 73,000
    26 Uttar Pradesh 3,20,000 4,15,000 8,80,000
    27 Uttarakhand 0 80,000 1,20,000
    28 West Bengal 1,50,000 1,20,000 10,30,000
    29 Andaman and Nicobar 0 20,000 10,000
    30 Chandigarh 0 20,000 10,000
    31 Dadra and Nagar Haveli 0 34,000 10,000
    32 Daman and Diu 0 20,000 10,000
    33 Delhi 1,40,000 20,000 2,60,000
    34 Lakshadweep 0 20,000 10,000
    35 Puducherry 80,000 45,000 20,000

    Source – https://data.gov.in/node/637581/download

  5. With series of elections taking place, there is also a rise in the expenditure that the political parties engage in so as to campaign for the elections. But with the advent of this policy, there will be less expenses made for campaigning and more time will be spent on development of the nation as the elections will be held once in five years.
  6. The policy of ‘One Nation One Election’ is beneficial for the Non-Resident Indians as they will now have to visit only once if they have to cast their vote for a deserving candidate of a party.
  7. Since the security forces will be deployed for conducting elections only once in five years, so they will be more available vigilant towards their duty of protecting the citizens and safeguarding the borders.
  8. Elections in states lead to the imposition of Model Code of Conduct. The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is a set of norms that lays down several do’s and don’ts that political parties, contesting candidates, party(ies) in power have to strictly abide by during the process of elections. It puts a hold on the entire development programme. If all the elections are held once in five years, the states will not be disrupted in their functioning by the operation of MCC and they shall have more time for developmental activities.

Conclusion

So, ‘One Nation One Election’ is a much-awaited policy which for implementation shall totally change the electoral scenario in India. The policy’s implementation will require changes in various provisions of the Constitution along with changes in various statutes. The policy suffers from various drawbacks but it also has many merits. If the parliament is able to remove all the disadvantages this policy suffers from implementation in India, then the policy shall have its own magic over the economy of India.

The Election Commission has proposed an idea of ‘One Year One Election’ as an alternative to ‘One Nation One Election’. The EC has proposed to conduct all the elections due in one year together.

[1]AIR 1994 SC 1918.

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