UP Assembly's Tenure Has Been Calculated Incorrectly Since 2012, Says Lawyer

Advocate-activist Hemant Kumar wrote a letter to the ECI pointing out that the assembly's term should be calculated from when the oath of office is administered to the newly-elected members.

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New Delhi: Lawyer and Right to Information (RTI) activist Hemant Kumar has pointed out to the Election Commission of India (ECI) that during the schedule declaration for the upcoming assembly elections in five states, the election body incorrectly stated that the term of the current UP assembly extends till May 14 of this year.

Punjab and Haryana high court advocate Kumar said the term of the house actually ends on March 27 and that this discrepancy had crept in due to a bureaucratic oversight during the 2012 polls in the state and has continued ever since.

Earlier this month, Kumar wrote to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and the two election commissioners (EC), informing them about the discrepancy and urged them to correct the error.

In his complaint, sent to the Public Grievance Redressal System (PGRS) Cell of the poll panel, Kumar said that the January 8 press note issued by the ECI announcing the upcoming elections had stated that the UP assembly’s term was from May 15, 2017 to May 14, 2022 where the actual term is from March 28, 2017 to March 27, 2022 since the very first meeting of the current UP assembly was called on March 28.

The page of the ECI press note stating the terms of the five state assemblies heading for polls. Photo: eci.gov.in.

Due to the date of the first meeting and the fact that the MLAs of the current 17th UP assembly took their oath on that day, Kumar insisted that the term of the assembly should be calculated from March 28, 2017.

Article 172 

“The duration/term of this Assembly should be counted from that date only, that is from 28 March 2017 and consequently it should be till 27 March 2022 as per Article 172 of Constitution of India,” Kumar wrote.

Article 172, Kumar said, lays down that “every Legislative Assembly of every State, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date appointed for its first meeting and the expiration of the said period of five years shall operate as a dissolution of the Assembly.”

The ECI’s reply

The ECI replied to Kumar’s letter on January 18, stating that the complaint has been forwarded to the concerned officer for a quick response.

“This is to inform you that we have raised a complaint with the concerned officers through our NGS portal; also we are personally forwarding this email to concerned officer for quick response. We would request you to wait for reply from the officer/department concerned,” the response stated.

Tenure of the house begins when the oath is administered to new members

On the topic of how this discrepancy cropped up, Kumar said that when he checked the official website of UP assembly in this regard, he discovered that, “…under the heading of ‘Proceedings and Synopsis’ therein, the Election of Speaker and First Session of current 17th UP assembly have been shown as separate, which is not correct since administering of the oath to newly elected MLA’s by Pro-Tem appointed Speaker, which is immediately followed by election of Speaker, is actually the newly elected assembly’s first meeting since the same is called by the governor of the state upon the recommendation of the newly formed cabinet/council of ministers, headed by chief minister.”

In the case of UP, Kumar said incumbent chief minister Yogi Adityanath took the oath of office and secrecy on March 19, 2017. Following the MLAs taking the oath and the election of the speaker, the next meeting/session of assembly was convened on May 15, 2017. “Thus, in case of the current 17th UP assembly, its duration has been erroneously counted from May 15 instead of March 28, 2017,” Kumar said.

Discrepancy first crept in in 2012 but went unnoticed

Kumar said that on going through the UP assembly’s records, he learnt that this discrepancy first crept in in the year 2012. Prior to that, he told The Wire, the term of the assembly was correctly shown to begin from the day of the first sitting, when legislators were administered the oath.

However, in 2012, he said, “Adityanath’s predecessor, Akhilesh Yadav took the oath as chief minister of UP on March 15, 2012; the oath was administered to newly elected MLAs of then constituted 16th UP assembly on April 11, 2012 and the Speaker was elected on April 13, 2012.” Therefore, he said, the duration of that assembly was from April 11, 2012 to April 10, 2017.

In 2017, too, Kumar insisted that an incorrect term of the house was announced. “The Press Note issued by the ECI on January 4, 2017 pertaining to Poll Schedule of 17th UP assembly mentioned the duration of 16th UP assembly till 27 May, 2017 although it ought to have been till April 10, 2017,” he said, adding that the issue went “unnoticed”.

Kumar used the example of the current Lok Sabha to show how the term of a house ought to be calculated. The current Lok Sabha’s term extends until June 16, 2024, five years after the first meeting of the current Lok Sabha on June 17, 2019, when the oath was administered to current MPs followed by Om Birla being elected the speaker on June 19, 2019.