Former Chief Election Commissioner and Legal Experts Weigh In on ‘One Nation, One Election’ Proposal

Former Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat and legal experts have shared their insights on the ‘One Nation, One Election’ proposal, which is currently under consideration by a committee headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind.

Rawat expressed the view that the concept of ‘One Nation, One Election’ is constitutionally possible and would only require an amendment to the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, 1951. He highlighted that the idea of simultaneous elections for state assemblies and the national parliament existed in the early years of the Indian Republic, with elections being held together in 1952, 1957, 1962, and 1967. However, this practice gradually ceased, leading to the phenomenon of year-round elections.

He pointed out that in 1982-83, the Election Commission had suggested amending the relevant laws to facilitate ‘One Nation, One Election,’ but the proposal wasn’t implemented. In 2015, when the government inquired whether such a move was feasible, the Election Commission responded affirmatively, provided that constitutional amendments were made.

The main challenge, according to Rawat, is the need for constitutional and legislative amendments, which falls within the government’s purview. Without these amendments, the Election Commission is bound by existing laws to conduct elections as scheduled for the states.

Rawat further discussed the potential benefits of ‘One Nation, One Election,’ stating that while there haven’t been empirical studies on the matter, subjective impressions suggest that continuous election processes keep political leaders preoccupied with poll-related matters, detracting from their primary governance responsibilities. Implementing ‘One Nation, One Election’ could result in more focused governance and give leaders and administrators additional time for their primary duties.

Former Law Secretary PK Malhotra emphasized that ‘One Nation, One Election’ has been debated previously and that the government’s committee under the leadership of Ram Nath Kovind will deliberate on the issue and propose solutions.

Vikas Singh, former additional solicitor general of India and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, noted that the proposal has the potential to reduce election costs and is a positive move. However, he stressed the need for constitutional amendments, specifically changes to Article 83 (Parliament’s tenure), Article 172 (State assemblies’ tenure), and the anti-defection law, which can only be accomplished by Parliament.

The government has called a Special Session of Parliament from September 18-22, sparking speculation that a bill related to ‘One Nation, One Election’ may be introduced during the session.

It’s worth noting that simultaneous elections for state assemblies and the Lok Sabha were held until 1967, after which the practice changed due to premature dissolutions of legislative assemblies and the Lok Sabha.

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