Pune: On Tuesday, 8th December, the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) issued a statement citing its views on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for simultaneous elections to Parliament and State Assemblies. 90 retired civil servants in this statement observed that simultaneous elections hold little regard for federal democracy and would cause major constitutional hurdles, and huge logistical problems with security and manpower issues being involved. They have made a call for electoral reforms, stating that the “One-Nation-One-Election” idea, if implemented, will be destructive for the federal structure of the nation.
Of the 90 signatories to the statement, 63 were in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), 12 were in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), 8 were in the Indian Police Service (IPS), 3 were in the Indian Forest Service (IFoS), and 1 each in the Indian revenue Service (IRS), Indian Postal Service (IPoS), and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW).
Indus Dictum has reproduced the full text of the CCG statement below:
CCG Statement on simultaneous elections to Parliament and State Assemblies
08 December 2020
The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) is a group of former civil servants from the All India and Central Services and is non-partisan and apolitical in nature. Many of its members have conducted, managed and supervised elections to Parliament and State Assemblies during their time in government service.
We have noted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for simultaneous elections to Parliament and State Assemblies saying that it is “not only a subject of debate but a necessity for India.” The main reason given is to avoid frequent suspension of development programs and welfare activities due to the repeated imposition of the Model Code of Conduct by the Election Commission of India. The additional reasons given are to avoid huge expenditure in conducting frequent elections and to reduce the influence of black money, caste, religion and communal issues in elections.
Proponents of this suggestion argue thus: “Getting out of the ‘permanent election mode’ will be a structural change in mind-set that could potentially provide the much-needed space to governments to focus on governance and long-term transformational measures without worrying about impending elections.” Supporting this contention, some quote the American example of simultaneous elections for all electoral offices from President downwards.
We are of the view that these arguments lack sincerity and are being used only to divert attention from the many flaws in our electoral laws and practices, including those relating to safeguards in the use of EVMs and to the use of post-election defections to gain power. To the Prime Minister’s rhetorical question, “Why should the country waste so much money?” the response would be that money is being spent on a number of items other than elections as well, e.g. purchasing aircraft for the President and Prime Minister’s exclusive travel, building massive Parliament and Secretariat buildings in Delhi’s Central Vista and many others.
It is well known that ‘simultaneous elections’ is what India started with in 1951 and continued with up to 1967, during which period Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly elections were held together without much fanfare. It was after this period that the cycle of synchronised elections got disrupted, primarily because many state governments (as well as governments at the Centre) could not complete their term of five years. Restoring status quo ante to synchronise elections to the State Legislatures and Parliament would present major constitutional hurdles, apart from huge logistics, security, and manpower issues being involved.
The ‘One-Nation-One-Election’ proposal, as envisaged, has little regard for the fact that in a federal democracy, once the respective domains of each unit of democracy – small or big – have been constitutionally demarcated and defined, that unit functions autonomously within its domain. The interests, the priorities, the mores and the conventions of each unit are its own and are not subordinate to those of the Union, except where the Constitution itself so mandates. The term of the Legislative Assembly of a state has nothing to do with the term of the Lok Sabha and depends primarily on the way electoral politics plays out within that state.
Holding of simultaneous elections is a political agenda of a state aiming at a unitary polity, in which the Centre is conflated with ‘national’ and the States treated as its subordinates, with their individual political fortunes deferring to those of the Centre. This is an assault on the fundamental principle of federalism in which each unit of democracy and governance is expected to function with relative autonomy and take its own decisions, whether it is the timing of elections, the framing of its laws and/or formulating its own policies in respect of subjects in the State List/Concurrent List.
What is worrying is not just the disregard for the federal character of the country, which is implicit in the ‘One-Nation-One-Election’ idea, but the barely concealed contempt for electoral democracy itself. The dangerous assumption here is that the need to periodically seek the mandate of the people is an unnecessary burden which comes in the way of efficiency. Governance, here, is viewed as something superior to and outside the practice of democracy and as the preserve of the administrative and political executive which controls it. The implication is that the people, the voters, have nothing to do with it, a totally unacceptable principle in a democracy.
India is a Union of States and the administrative convenience of the Central Government or the Election Commission of India cannot dictate the political processes of a state. Doing so could decimate whatever is left of the federal nature of the country and alter the basic structure of the Constitution as laid down by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati (1973) and the S.R. Bommai (1994) cases.
At the same time, it is common knowledge that there are serious flaws in the current electoral processes and practices, with many electoral reforms being urgently needed. These include the use of money and muscle power in elections, the increasing participation of criminal elements in the election process as candidates, the faulty preparation of electoral rolls, the lackadaisical implementation of the Model Code of Conduct and addressing the mounting concerns on the integrity of EVM voting and VVPAT counting, as well as on the opaque electoral bonds system. We are of the considered view that it is electoral reforms that are the need of the hour today and not the idea of “One-Nation-One-Election”, which, if implemented, will be destructive of our federal structure. If the Government of India sincerely wish to improve the operation of the electoral system in India, it should work in tandem with all political parties (and in consultation with the Election Commission of India) to initiate reforms to improve the fairness and transparency of the election process.
(90 signatories, as below)
|1.||Anita Agnihotri||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI|
|2.||V.S. Ailawadi||IAS (Retd.)||Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority|
|3.||S.P. Ambrose||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI|
|4.||Anand Arni||R&AW (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|5.||G. Balachandhran||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|6.||Vappala Balachandran||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|7.||Gopalan Balagopal||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|8.||Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Coal, GoI|
|9.||Rana Banerji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), GoI|
|10.||Sharad Behar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|11.||Aurobindo Behera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha|
|12.||Madhu Bhaduri||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Portugal|
|13.||Meeran C Borwankar||IPS (Retd.)||Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI|
|14.||Ravi Budhiraja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI|
|15.||Sundar Burra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|16.||Rachel Chatterjee||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh|
|17.||Kalyani Chaudhuri||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|18.||Anna Dani||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|19.||Vibha Puri Das||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI|
|20.||P.R. Dasgupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI|
|21.||Pradeep K. Deb||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI|
|22.||Keshav Desiraju||IAS (Retd.)||Former Health Secretary, GoI|
|23.||M.G. Devasahayam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana|
|24.||K.P. Fabian||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Italy|
|25.||Gourisankar Ghosh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI|
|26.||Suresh K. Goel||IFS (Retd.)||Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI|
|27.||S. Gopal||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, GoI|
|28.||S.K. Guha||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI|
|29.||H.S. Gujral||IFoS (Retd.)||Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab|
|30.||Meena Gupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI|
|31.||Wajahat Habibullah||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner|
|32.||Deepa Hari||IRS (Resigned)|
|33.||Sajjad Hassan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur|
|34.||Siraj Hussain||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI|
|35.||Najeeb Jung||IAS (Retd.)||Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi|
|36.||Vinod C. Khanna||IFS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI|
|37.||Rahul Khullar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India|
|38.||Ajai Kumar||IFoS(Retd.)||Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI|
|39.||Brijesh Kumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI|
|40.||P.K. Lahiri||IAS (Retd.)||Former ED, Asian Development Bank & Former Revenue Secretary, GoI|
|41.||Aloke B. Lal||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General (Prosecution), Govt. of Uttarakhand|
|42.||Subodh Lal||IPoS (Resigned)||Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI|
|43.||B.B. Mahajan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI|
|44.||Harsh Mander||IAS (Retd.)||Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|45.||C.K. Mathew||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|46.||Lalit Mathur||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI|
|47.||Aditi Mehta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|48.||Sonalini Mirchandani||IFS (Resigned)||GoI|
|49.||Avinash Mohananey||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim|
|50.||Deb Mukharji||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal|
|51.||Shiv Shankar Mukherjee||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom|
|52.||Sobha Nambisan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka|
|53.||P.G.J. Nampoothiri||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat|
|54.||Surendra Nath||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|55.||P. Joy Oommen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh|
|56.||Amitabha Pande||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI|
|57.||Alok Perti||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI|
|58.||R. Poornalingam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI|
|59.||T.R. Raghunandan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI|
|60.||V.P. Raja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission|
|61.||C. Babu Rajeev||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, GoI|
|62.||K. Sujatha Rao||IAS (Retd.)||Former Health Secretary, GoI|
|63.||M.Y. Rao||IAS (Retd.)|
|64.||Satwant Reddy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI|
|65.||Vijaya Latha Reddy||IFS (Retd.)||Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI|
|66.||Julio Ribeiro||IPS (Retd.)||Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania|
|67.||Aruna Roy||IAS (Resigned)|
|68.||Manabendra N. Roy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|69.||A.K. Samanta||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal|
|70.||Deepak Sanan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh|
|71.||G. Sankaran||IC&CES (Retd.)||Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal|
|72.||S. Satyabhama||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI|
|73.||N.C. Saxena||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI|
|74.||Ardhendu Sen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|75.||Abhijit Sengupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI|
|76.||Aftab Seth||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Japan|
|77.||Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFoS (Retd.)||Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat|
|78.||Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia|
|79.||Navrekha Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Indonesia|
|80.||Raju Sharma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh|
|81.||Sujatha Singh||IFS (Retd.)||Former Foreign Secretary, GoI|
|82.||Tirlochan Singh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI|
|83.||Jawhar Sircar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati|
|84.||Thanksy Thekkekera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|85.||P.S.S. Thomas||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission|
|86.||Geetha Thoopal||IRAS (Retd.)||Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata|
|87.||Hindal Tyabji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir|
|88.||Jawed Usmani||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & Former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh|
|89.||Ashok Vajpeyi||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi|
|90.||Ramani Venkatesan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra|
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