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Report No. 170

Chapter II

Measures for improving the electoral system

7.2.1 Goal of one election once in five years disrupted. The Constitution provides for a federation. At the Centre, there is a Parliament and in the States there are State Legislatures. To begin with, elections to Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies in the States were being held simultaneously and once in five years. But then slowly and steadily the Lok Sabha elections and the elections to Legislative Assemblies got dissociated for several reasons.

For example, in a case where a State Legislative Assembly is dissolved invoking the power under article 356 of the Constitution well before the expiry of its term, an election has to be held to that Legislative Assembly within the period prescribed. Sometimes it may happen that a particular Chief Minister in a State may advise the Governor to dissolve the Legislative Assembly well before the expiry of its term and if such recommendation is accepted by the Governor and the Assembly is dissolved, a fresh election to that Assembly has to be held within the period prescribed.

Unfortunately, till about 1994, there has been a rampant resort to article 356.In some instances, as many as six or more State Governments and Legislative Assemblies were dismissed/dissolved at once, necessitating elections to those Legislative Assemblies soon thereafter. There have also been instances when Lok Sabha was dissolved far ahead of the expiry of its term. It happened on at least four occasions. The result is that the schedule of Lok Sabha elections and the schedule of the elections to Legislative Assemblies has become completely separated. The resulting situation can best be illustrated by setting out the particulars relating to Lok Sabha and the several Legislative Assemblies:

(a) The XIIth Lok Sabha has been dissolved in the month of April 1999 and elections have been notified to take place in September-October, 1999. If so, its term, in the normal course would expire in October 2004.

(b) Elections to the State Assemblies of Mizoram, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were held in March 1998 along with the Lok Sabha elections of 1998. Their term will come to an end in March 2003.

(c) The terms of Karnataka and Sikkim Legislative Assemblies will come to an end on 25th December 1999 and 28th December 1999, respectively.

(d) The term of the Legislative Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar is coming to an end in the year 2000 between the months of January to April. To be more precise, the dates of expiry of Legislative Assemblies of the said States are 10th January, 21st March, 21st March, 22nd March, 23rd March and 9th April, 2000 respectively.

(e) The terms of the Legislative Assemblies of Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Pondicherry and Assam will come to an end during the months of May and June 2001. To be precise, the dates of expiry are 21st May, 21st May, 28th May, 9th June, 9th June and 11th June, respectively.

(f) The term of the Legislative Assemblies of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and J & K is coming to an end in the year 2002. To be precise, the dates of expiry of the term of these States are 2nd March, 25th March and 17th October, 2002, respectively. (The term of the J & K Assembly is six years.)

(g) The term of the Legislative Assemblies of Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Nagaland and Tripura are all expiring in the month of March 2003.To be precise, the dates of expiry are 8th March, 14th March, 18th March, 22nd March and 21st March, 2003, respectively.

(h) The Legislative Assembly of Goa was recently dissolved. The Election Commission has now announced that elections to the same will be held on June 4, 1999, which means that its term will expire in June 2004.

7.2.1.1. In other words, we are going to have elections to Legislative Assemblies in each of the next five years, unless of course, the Legislative Assemblies of Karnataka, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar are dissolved before the expiry of their term and elections to those Legislative Assemblies is held along with the elections to Lok Sabha likely to be held in September-October 1999.

Even then, there will be elections to six Legislative Assemblies in 2001, three Legislative Assemblies in 2002, nine Legislative Assemblies in 2003 and one Legislative Assembly (Goa) in 2004. Again in 2004, all things being equal, the elections to Lok Sabha will fall due towards the end of that year. This cycle of elections every year, and in the out of season, should be put an end to. We must go back to the situation where the elections to Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies are held at once.

It is true that we cannot conceive or provide for all the situations and eventualities hat may arise whether on account of the use of article 356 (which of course has come down substantially after the decision of Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India) or for other reasons, yet the holding of a separate election to a Legislative Assembly should be an exception and not the rule. The rule ought to be 'one election once in five years for Lok Sabha and all the Legislative Assemblies'.



Reform of The Electoral Laws Back




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