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High-Level Committee Report on One Nation, One Election

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Polity: Elections

 

Source: IE

 Context: The High-Level Committee on One Nation, One Election, led by former President Ram Nath Kovind, has proposed significant changes to enable synchronized elections across India.

 

What is One Nation One Election (ONOE)?

One Nation One Election is a proposal to synchronize the timing of all elections in India, including those for the Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, and local bodies. The aim is to streamline the electoral process, reduce campaign expenditures, minimize disruptions to governance, and enhance political stability by holding all elections simultaneously at regular intervals, typically once every five years. ONOE was the norm until 1967 but after that cycle was broken. Earlier Law Commission also recommended the idea of ONOE in its report.

 

Key Recommendations of the High-Level Committee: 

  1. Two-step approach for Simultaneous Elections (SE): Synchronize Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies (SLA) elections first, followed by Municipalities and Panchayats elections (M&PE).
    1. Amendments in Article 324A are required for this synchronization, but states’ ratification is not necessary.
    2. The amendments needed for simultaneous elections are outside the scope of Article 368(2) and thus don’t require ratification by the states.
  • Municipal and Panchayat elections should be held within 100 days of Lok Sabha and State elections.
  1. Dealing with hung House, adoption of no-confidence motion, and defection:
    1. For Lok Sabha, fresh elections should be held with tenure limited to the unexpired term of the previous Lok Sabha.
    2. For States, fresh elections should be held, continuing until the end of the full term of Lok Sabha.
  • Amendments in Article 83 and Article 172 are needed, but state ratification is not required.
  1. Single electoral roll and electoral identity cards: An amendment to Article 325 is recommended, which will require states’ ratification.
  2. Presidential Notification: A Presidential notification would set an “appointed date” for simultaneous elections.
  3. Constitutional Authority of Parliament for ONOE: The Constitution mainly entrusts Parliament, not states, with the power to conduct Assembly elections.
    • Under Article 328 of the Constitution States have only residual powers on conducting Assembly elections; the power is mainly entrusted to Parliament through Article 327.

 

Constitutional Articles involved:

Article Description Amendment Required
Article 324A Article 324 of the Constitution vests the Election Commission with the authority to supervise, direct, and control elections for Parliament, state legislatures, the President of India, and the Vice-President of India.

 

The committee has suggested the inclusion of a new Article 324A in the Constitution.

This new article would empower Parliament to make laws to ensure that municipality and panchayat elections are held simultaneously with the General Elections (to Lok Sabha and state Assemblies) without requiring state ratification.
Article 83 and Article 172 Article 83(2) and Article 172(1) stipulate a five-year term for the Lok Sabha and state legislative Assemblies, respectively, commencing from their first sitting unless dissolved earlier. The committee recommended an amendment for synchronizing Assembly elections with Lok Sabha polls, suggesting no need for state ratification.
Article 325 Article 325 prohibits the exclusion of any person from a special electoral roll based on religion, race, caste, or sex. The committee suggested amendment for a single electoral roll and electoral identity cards, requiring state ratification.
Articles 328 and 327 Article 328: Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature. As per the committee, the Constitution empowers Parliament, not states, to conduct Assembly elections, implying that simultaneous poll amendments do not mandate state ratification.

 

Benefits of “one nation, one election”:

Benefits Description
Reducing Election Expenditure Conducting all elections simultaneously minimizes expenses on logistics, security, and campaigning.
The Election Commission of India had pegged the expenditure for simultaneous elections at Rs 4,500 crore. In comparison, the 2014 Lok Sabha polls cost Rs 3,870 crore to the exchequer while the 2015 Bihar elections alone cost the government Rs 300 crore.
Better Governance Simultaneous elections reduce distractions to governance and allow elected governments to focus on developmental and welfare activities.
Voter Convenience Voters are spared from multiple rounds of voting throughout the year, ensuring better turnout and convenience.
Reduced Security Concerns Simultaneous elections decrease security concerns by requiring a unified security setup across the country.
Level Playing Field All parties and candidates have equal opportunities, promoting fairness and transparency in the electoral process.
Reduced Impact on Education Simultaneous elections lessen the impact on the education sector by minimizing the involvement of teachers in the electoral process.

Limitations of “one nation, one election”

Challenges Description
Ratification by States The committee proposal that Ratification by states is not needed for most of the amendments may increase tension between the centre and states and also be struck down by Judicial Review
In Kihoto Hollohan v Zachillhu (1992), the Supreme Court invalidated a law related to lawmaker disqualification because it lacked ratification by the states.
Constitutional Challenges Implementing “one nation, one election” requires lengthy and complicated constitutional amendments, necessitating consensus among political parties and states.
Anti-federalism Combining assembly elections with general elections risks submerging regional issues under the national narrative, potentially undermining local representation.
Complexity of Logistics Managing simultaneous elections entails significant logistical arrangements, including security deployment, electoral roll preparation, and polling booth management.
It would require greater numbers of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines
Dominance by National Parties Simultaneous elections may favour national parties with more resources, potentially disadvantaging regional parties and diminishing the representation of regional issues.
Impact on Democracy Conducting simultaneous elections might limit voters’ engagement with all issues, possibly compromising informed decision-making and the overall democratic process.
Voter’s choice and interests Simultaneous elections may shift voter focus to national issues, potentially favouring larger national parties over regional ones. This could marginalize regional parties and diminish voter interests.
Additionally, separate elections enhance accountability by subjecting politicians to more frequent electoral scrutiny.

International Experience:

  1. South Africa: National and provincial legislature elections are simultaneous for five years, with municipal elections held two years later.
  2. Sweden: Elections for the national legislature (Riksdag), provincial legislature/county council (Landsting), and municipal assemblies (Kommunfullmaktige) are held every fourth year on the second Sunday in September.
  • Britain: The Fixed-term Parliaments Act, 2011 ensures stability by holding elections on the first Thursday of May every fifth year, starting from May 7, 2015.

 

Way forward

  • Parliamentary standing committee on Law and Justice recommended a two-phase election schedule, according to which elections to some legislative assemblies whose term end within six months to one year before or after the election date could be held during the midterm of Lok Sabha. For the rest of the states, elections could be held along with the general elections to Lok Sabha.
  • Cost can be brought under control by ensuring that the legal cap on the expenditure of candidates is followed by all parties.
  • Concept of One year, One election will be easier than ONOE, and will have the same benefits.

 

Conclusion:

While the objectives for simultaneous polls offer considerable opportunities, the challenges involved and practical limitations highlight the need for wider political support and legislative amendments. Going forward toward this goal, elaborate deliberations and a consensus-based mechanism for implementation are essential.

 

Insta Links:

 

Mains Link:

Q.‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss. (UPSC 2017)

 

Prelims Links:

Q1. Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2020)

  1. According to the Constitution of India, a person who is eligible to vote can be made a minister in a State for six months even if he/she is not a member of the Legislature of that State.
  2. According to the Representation of People Act, 1951, a person convicted of a criminal offense and sentenced to imprisonment for five years is permanently disqualified from contesting an election even after his release from prison.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

 

Answer: D

 

Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2017)

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only

 

Answer: D