One Nation One Election: Role of States


    Syllabus: GS2/ Constitutional Bodies; Government Policies & Interventions

    In Context

    • Recently the Union government set up a committee under the leadership of former President of India Ram Nath Kovind to look into the feasibility of simultaneous polls to State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha
    • The committee is set to examine the ‘one nation, one election’ (ONOE) idea and make recommendations for holding simultaneous elections in the country.
    ‘One Nation One Election’ System
    – One Nation One Election proposes that simultaneous elections be held in all states and the Lok Sabha in a gap of five years
    1. This will involve the restructuring of the Indian election cycle in a manner that elections to the states and the centre synchronise. 
    2. This would mean that the voters will cast their vote for electing members of the LS and the state assemblies on a single day, at the same time (or in a phased manner as the case may be).

    Position of States & ONOE

    • Criticisms on ONOE with respect to the role of states:
      • Each of India’s States has different political cultures and parties. Furthermore, this is an attack on and an affront to India’s federalism. 
      • An elected Chief Minister of a State has the powers to recommend dissolution of their State legislatures and call for early elections
      • Under a ‘one election’ framework, state parties will not have the right to do this. 
      • These powers will be taken away from the States and only the Union government will have the powers to dictate the election schedule for every State.
    • Need of ratification of states:
      • In 2018 the Law Commission of India released a draft report stipulating that simultaneous elections are not feasible within the existing framework of the Constitution. 
      • The Commission highlighted that a constitutional amendment to this effect must receive ratification from at least 50% of the States
    • Objective of recently constituted committee:
      • Committee’s one of the objectives is to examine and recommend if the constitutional amendments required to facilitate simultaneous elections would require ratification by the States.
      • This has raised concerns since the implementation of such a proposal only through a vote in the Parliament where the union government is in majority, without the consent of the States would have an adverse impact on federalism.

    Process of Amending the Indian Constitution

    • Article 368 of the Indian Constitution governs the process of amending the Constitution.
    • Constitutional amendments can take place through three different procedures:
    • Simple Majority: Some provisions in the Constitution can be amended in the same way ordinary legislations are passed— through a simple majority of those present and voting in each House of the Parliament; it does not require a specific quorum. 
    • Special majority: For amending provisions not within the first category, Article 368 stipulates that they can be affected by a prescribed ‘special majority,’ i.e., not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting in each House of the Parliament as well as by a majority of the total membership of each House.
    • Ratification of states:
      • A third category requires both a ‘special majority’ and ratification by at least one-half of the State legislatures. 
      • No specific time limit for ratification by the State legislatures has been specified but resolutions ratifying the proposed amendment should, however, be passed before the amending Bill is presented to the President for his assent.

    Constitutional Amendments that Require Ratification by States

    • The Constitutional provisions that require ratification in order to be amended are specifically listed in the proviso to Article 368(2) and pertain to the federal structure of the Constitution. They are commonly referred to as ‘entrenched provisions’ and are as follows—
      • If there is a change in the provisions regarding elections to the post of the President of India (Article 54 and 55).
      • If there is a change in the extent of the executive power of the Union or the State governments (Article 73 and 162).
      • If there is any change in the provisions regarding the Union judiciary or the High Courts. (Articles 124–147 and 214–231).
      • If the distribution of legislative and administrative powers between the Union and the States is affected (Article 245 to 255).
      • If any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule is affected.
      • If the representation of the States in the Parliament is changed (Article 82).
      • If Article 368 itself is amended. 

    Significance of Limited Role of States in Constitutional Amendments

    • Dr. B.R Ambedkar cautioned that permitting all constitutional amendments to take place by a simple majority would defeat the principle of separation of powers among the three organs of the State.
    Instances of Constitutional Amendment Struck Down for want of Ratification

    Anti-Defection case:
    – In Kihoto Hollohan v. Zachillu (1992) popularly known as the Anti-Defection case, the constitutional validity of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution inserted by the Constitution (Fifty-second Amendment) Act, 1985 was challenged on the ground that the amendment was not ratified by the States.
    Co-operative Societies:
    – The Supreme Court in Union of India v. Rajendra N. Shah struck down provisions of the Constitution (97th Amendment) Act, 2011 to the extent that it introduced Part IX B in the Constitution to deal with co-operative societies. 
    – The Court unanimously held that the amendment required ratification by at least one-half of the State legislatures as per Article 368(2) of the Constitution.

    Way Ahead

    • Simultaneous election is an idea whose time has come. However, since the issue is concerned with the federal structure of the Constitution, it needs to be discussed and debated properly across the political spectrum to assuage the concerns of regional parties. 
    Daily Mains Question
    [Q] Examine the role of states in the enactment & implementation of the ‘One Nation One Election’ system. Analyse the challenges & criticisms of this system.