DMK working president MK Salin has written to BS Chauhan, chairman of the Law Commission of India, expressing his party's strong opposition to the proposal to hold simultaneous elections in India.
Stalin's objections were two-fold. One, various aspects of the proposal tampered with the basic structure of the Constitution of India, which the Supreme Court in previous governments has strictly forbidden. Two, such a move would threaten federalism in addressing the question of when and how the Parliament or the various state Legislative Assembles would be dissolved.
Here is the full text of MK Stalin's letter:
Thalapathi MK STALIN,
Working President, DMK
Leader of Opposition, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly
Dr Justice BS Chauhan,
Chairman, Law Commission of India,
New Delhi - 110 003.
Sub: Simultaneous Elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislatures
Ref D.O. No. 6(3)322/2018-LC(LS) dated 14.06.2018.
I am in receipt of your letter D.O. No 6(3)322/2018-LC(LS) dated 14.06.2018 seeking views of political parties, academia, intellectuals, etc on the conduct of Simultaneous Elections - and I write to express the views on behalf of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
We, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK, hereinafter), are of the firm opinion that the proposed call for Simultaneous Elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislatures goes against the basic tenets of our Constitution and established principles of democratic functioning.
We refer to the Working Paper dated 17.04.2018 published on the website of the Law Commission of India on the subject matter of this letter and are constrained to point out the following discrepancies:
In paragraph 2 of the Working Paper, it is stated that "local body elections" are not dealt here as they are a "State subject". Similarly, the State Legislatures have a distinct constitutional identity and derive their powers from Chapter III of the Constitution. Though the Parliament is empowered to amend the Constitution - in accordance with Article 368 - there are basic features of the Constitution which cannot be abrogated. Federalism is one such basic feature and this has been repeatedly held by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in cases such as Golak Nath v. State of Punjab and Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala. Any proposal to amend these fundamental tenets in turn threatens to tear apart the fabric holding the nation together.
In paragraph 4 of the Working Paper, examples of countries which have Simultaneous Elections are given as Sweden, Belgium and South Africa. The combined populations of Sweden (1 crore), Belgium (1.1 crore) and South Africa (5.5 crore) is less than that of Tamil Nadu (7.9 crore). Therefore, any comparison of these countries with that of our nation (132 crore) is logically fallacious, completely misleading and unhelpful to the present discourse.
In paragraph 5 of the Working Paper, it is acknowledged that Articles 83(2) and 172(1) of the Constitution specify the tenure of the Parliament and State Legislatures. The powers to dissolve the Legislature are vested with the Governor under Article 174 and with the President under Article 356. These powers have been circumscribed by a seven-judge bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan vs Union of India 1977. Any alteration of these powers by the Union Government or Election Commission of India may run the risk of altering the basic structure of the Constitution and directly impinging on its federal character.
In paragraph 9 of the Working Paper, it is suggested that Tenth Schedule may be diluted for the formation of stable government. The anti-defection laws of the land were enacted to prevent elected representatives from switching sides during the tenure of the Assembly or Parliament. Dilution of these provisions would directly aid horse-trading among legislators while destroying the root of political party system of democracy. The casual treatment of the Tenth Schedule in this Working Paper is a cause for alarm and no justification can ever be advanced to abet defection among elected representatives.
In paragraph 11 of the Working Paper, the possibility of synchronising State Legislature elections with 2019 and 2024 Lok Sabha elections has been put forward. The Working Paper does not seem to have considered that the Lok Sabha is also capable of being dissolved before its five year tenure. If such a situation were to happen, it is unclear whether all Legislative Assemblies will also be dissolved to synchronise the electoral process again.
I would like to bring to your attention that the Law Commission, on the request of the previous BJP-led government under Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, studied and reported on this very same issue in its 170th Report in 1999. No action has been taken upon its recommendations so far Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances. Law and Justice (consisting of all major political parties from across the country), in its 79th Report in 2015, has concluded that "gaining consensus of all political parties may be difficult" and that "holding Simultaneous Elections may not be feasible in 2016 or even in a decade".
Under these circumstances - where an earlier Law Commission has already reported on the issue exhaustively and where Parliament is sceptical whether this idea can be ever implemented - this redundant exercise of producing a duplicative report that has no chances of being legislated appears questionable and if I may say, useless, both from a legal and political standpoint. On the contrary, there is a danger of diminishing the Law Commission's credibility.
When the raison d'etre for conducting Simultaneous Elections appears to be the "massive expenditures" borne by the government in conducting elections, procurement of EVMs and VVPATs alone for conducting Simultaneous Elections would cost about 10,000 crores (recurring every 15 years). The entire expenditure borne by the central government for conducting general elections in 2014, meanwhile, was only Rs. 3870 crones or roughly, 45 rupees per elector. It is not clear how this can be considered "huge" or "massive" or how spending thousands of crores more would be more "efficient".
In sum, the present proposal of the Law Commission of India seems to be a complete misadventure that will decimate the federal structure. I respectfully submit my party's whole hearted opposition to the proposal of "One India One Elections".
With kind regards,
Working President, DMK