Law Commission of India Chairman Justice BS Chauhan has said the Constitution would require major amendments to make simultaneous General and Assembly elections possible. However, the Constitution already adopts the “best practices from everywhere” and does not need such fundamental changes, the retired Supreme Court judge told The Indian Express in an interview published on Monday.
On April 17, the Law Commission had recommended that elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies be held simultaneously. In a draft white paper, the commission said the Constitution could be amended to allow simultaneous polls. It also invited opinions and suggestions from “constitutional experts, academia, political parties, bureaucrats, students, etc,” by May 8.
In his interview, Chauhan said the Law Ministry had asked the panel “a few days ago” to start working on the points of law relevant to the proposal. However, the Law Commission has been working on this “as an academic exercise” since Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the idea on Law Day on November 25, 2017.
“We have not gone into the desirability of the exercise – that would be for politicians and others to decide,” Chauhan said. “We are just trying to sort out the legal aspects. About four Constitutional amendments and then amendments to the Representation of People Act would be needed.”
He said holding General and Assembly elections simultaneously would cost the public exchequer a lot of money. The number of voting machines needed for the purpose would be “three to four times of what we have”, he said.
When asked whether the Constitution needs a fundamental overhaul because of the proposal, Chauhan said: “I believe we have the best Constitution in the world that borrows from best practices everywhere. What it needs is proper execution...We don’t need to change it.”
However, he added: “This will not be possible by 2019. But even if by 2040, the country should start thinking about it.”
Prime Minister Modi has spoken about the idea of simultaneous state and national elections on several occasions. President Ram Nath Kovind, too, in his address on the first day of the Parliament’s Budget Session, urged political parties to reach a consensus on the matter.