The Union Law Ministry on Saturday named eight members to the committee, headed by the former President Ram Nath Kovind, that will examine the issue of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha, Assemblies, municipalities and panchayats.
The only Opposition leader in the panel, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, declined to be a member and said the composition of the committee is such it will “guarantee its conclusion”. He told The Hindu that he learnt about his inclusion in the committee through the media.
Apart from the Chairperson, the committee will include Home Minister Amit Shah, Mr. Chowdhury, former Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Finance Commission chairperson N.K. Singh, senior advocate Harish Salve, former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash C. Kashyap, and former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Sanjay Kothari.
Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal will attend the meetings of the committee as a special invitee, while Legal Affairs Secretary Niten Chandra will serve as Secretary to the panel.
The committee will examine and recommend specific amendments to the Constitution, the Representation of the People Act, and any other laws and rules which would require amendments for the purpose of holding simultaneous elections.
In his letter to Mr. Shah, the Congress leader in Lok Sabha said, ”I have no hesitation whatsoever in declining to serve on the Committee whose terms of reference have been prepared in a manner to guarantee its conclusions. It is, I am afraid, a total eyewash”.
He claimed the sudden attempt to thrust “a constitutionally suspect, pragmatically non-feasible and logistically unimplementable idea on the nation, months before the general elections, raises serious concerns about ulterior motives of the government”.
He said, “Furthermore, I find that the current LOP [Leader of the Opposition] in the Rajya Sabha has been excluded. This is a deliberate insult to the system of Parliamentary democracy.”
The notification said that the committee will also examine and recommend if the amendments to the Constitution would require ratification by the States. The panel will also analyse and recommend possible solutions to scenarios such as a hung House, adoption of no-confidence motion, defection, or any such other event in the case of simultaneous elections.
The notification quoted the 170th report of the Law Commission, which said the “cycle of elections every year 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 that 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 vs 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’,” the Law Commission had stated in its 170th report.