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Seeking to drop anti-defection law, no-confidence motion, India's Law Commission bats for simultaneous polls

By Our Representative
In a surprise move, the Law Commission of India is all set to recommend that “no-confidence motion” against a government should be replaced with what it calls “constructive vote of no-confidence”, both in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The recommendation finds its way in the draft working paper, “Simultaneous Elections – Constitutional and Legal Perspectives”, released recently.
In yet another controversial recommendation, the Commission wants Parliament and State Assemblies to drop the “rigour” of the anti-defection law, at least if there is a hung Parliament or Assembly. It adds, this could be done by amending the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.
At the same time, he commission insists, the Prime Minister and state chief ministers should be elected in the same way as the Lok Sabha or assembly speaker is, and the requirement that leader of the majority party should be elected to leader the country or state should be dropped.
It says, “Analogous to the election of Speaker of the House of People by consensus, Leader of the majority party, i.e., the Prime Minister/Chief Minister may be elected to lead the Lok Sabha/Assembly, by the full House like electing the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. This will potentially provide stability to the government and in turn to the Lok Sabha/Assembly.”
Prepared following the commission’s meeting of April 17, 2018, the commission says, it was “unanimously resolved that before finalising and forwarding its report to the Government of India” it was necessary to take opinion of “all the stakeholders, including constitutional experts, academia, political parties, bureaucrats, students, etc.”
Pointing out that simultaneous elections are held “in countries like South Africa, Sweden, Belgium”, etc., the draft paper says, India’s Constitution “does not mention about a confidence motion or a no-confidence motion.”
It believes, “An alternative to tide over the premature dissolution of the House of People could be that the members, while moving a no-confidence motion, may also put forward an option for forming an alternative government. This could hold good for Lok Sabha as well as State Assemblies. This system is prevalent in Germany.”
To avoid the situation of Hung Parliament/Assembly, which often leads to a “stalemate”, the commission believes, “To avoid the premature dissolution of the House/State Assembly and to advance the idea of simultaneous elections, the Members of the House may sit together and decide on the leader of the House can form a Government.”
It adds, “This can be made workable if an exception to the applicability of the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution is carved out”, wondering, “Can the rigour of Schedule X to the Constitution (anti-defection law) be diluted only for formation of a stable Government?”
To make things easier, the commission says, “Statutory limit of six months for the issuance of notification of general elections be appropriately extended by way of amendments to sections 14 and 15 of the 1951 Act”, adding, “This would provide the flexibility required to position States either in one group or the other, as one time measure.”
The commission believes, “synchronisation of the elections”, already examined by the Standing Committee of Parliament, suggests that in the first phase, elections to the State Legislatures which are scheduled to go for polls synchronous with Lok Sabha, in 2019…”
Insisting that “certain states which are having scheduled elections in near future) can be held together”, the commission says, “The rest of the states (those states which will be going to elections in proximity with Lok Sabha elections of 2024) can be synchronised with 2024 general elections, appropriately extending the terms of the respective Assemblies.”
“Another option”, says the commission, is to hold “the General Elections 2019 along with the elections to Assemblies of the formatter group of States, and after 30 months, hold elections with the latter group of States.” “Thereafter”, it adds, “Elections could be held every two-and-a-half years.”

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