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Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation exercise for Assembly Elections started

Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation exercise for Assembly Elections started

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Central Government || Parliament

Why in news?

  • Recently, the Delimitation Commission for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has started the exercise by writing to all 20 District Commissioners (DC).

What is Delimitation?

  • Delimitation means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.
  • Bifurcation of J&K
    • The bifurcation of J&K into two UTs has led to redrawing of Assembly constituency boundaries. While the UT of Ladakh will not have its legislature, J&K will. This would be similar to Puducherry or Delhi.]
  • Bifurcation in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
    • Such delimitation was also necessitated in 2014 when Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were bifurcated.

Why Delimitation is needed?

  • To ensure that equal segments of a population are represented.
  • A fair division of geographical areas is necessary to ensure that no political party has an advantage over others in an election.
  • To adhere to the principle of “One Vote, One Value.”

Constitutional Basis for Delimitation

  • Article 82:The Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Article 170:States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per the Delimitation Act after every Census.
    • When the Act goes into effect, the Union government appoints a Delimitation Commission.

Delimitation Exercises in J&K in the Past

  • Delimitation exercises in J&K in the past have been slightly different from those in the rest of the country because of the region’s special status —which was scrapped by the Centre in August 2019.
  • Until then, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India
  • But the delimitation of the state’s Assembly seats was governed by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • J&K Representation of the People Act 1957
    • The J&K Representation of the People Act 1957 has now been declared invalid and delimitation will be carried out following the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (as amended from time to time) and Sections 59 and 60 of Act 34 of 2019.
    • The population figures from the 2011 census will be used as the basis for the delimitation exercise.
  • The new Jammu and Kashmir state assembly will have 114 seats (currently 107), of which only 90 will be open for elections, and the remaining 24 will be shadow seats reserved for areas of the former state occupied by Pakistan (PoJK).

Delimitation not die for the first time

  • Assembly seats in J&K were delimited in 1963, 1973, and 1995.
  • The last exercise was conducted by the Justice (retired) KK Gupta Commission when the state was under President’s Rule and was based on the 1981 census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on the fresh delimitation of seats until 2026.
  • This freeze was upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • The freeze, some political parties argue, has created inequity for the Jammu region.

Reasons for a freeze on the number of seats

  • The 84th Amendment to the Constitution in 2002 had put a freeze on the delimitation of Lok Sabha and State Assembly constituencies till the first Census after 2026.
    • While the current boundaries were drawn based on the 2001 Census, the number of Lok Sabha seats and State Assembly seats remained frozen based on the 1971 Census.
    • The population according to the last census preceding the freeze was 50 crore, which in 50 years has grown to 130 crores.
    • This has caused a massive asymmetry in the political representation in the country.

Reasons for defreeze of seats

  • 42nd Amendment Act
    • 42nd Amendment Act laid down that there would be no delimitation till after the 2001 census- neither re-demarcation of boundaries nor re-working of numbers due to increase in population, except for the SC/STs.
  • The reason is that some states – especially in southern India, effectively controlled population while some others had neglected the same. The former would lose and the latter would gain if there is allocation of seats based on population after every census.
  • 84th and the 87th Amendment Acts
    • 84th and the 87th Amendment Acts extended the freeze on seats till the 2031 census which is the first census after the year 2026 when the population is expected to stabilize.
    • The difference between the 84th and the 87th Amendment Acts is that the former took the 1991 census as the basis while the latter replaced it with the 2001 census.
  • Population stabilization
    • The ban till the year 2026 had been imposed as the population planners have projected that by that year the population of India would stabilize (addition to population and loss equal, that is, there will be demographic equilibrium with a couple being replaced by a little more than 2 children and the net replacement rate is about
  • Development of constituencies
    • Delimitation must be done in such a way that it is integrated with constituency development. As a result, administrative, social, and geographical dimensions must be considered.
    • All constituencies must, to the greatest extent possible, be geographically compact areas, with consideration given to physical features, existing administrative unit boundaries, communication facilities, and public convenience.
  • Contiguity of such administrative units need to be maintained
    • While delimiting the assembly constituencies based on the administrative, units as mentioned above, the contiguity of such administrative units will be the basic requirement, so that no constituency has an enclave/island within it of certain areas belonging to another constituency and having no contiguity to the other areas of that latter constituency.
  • Geography should be taken into consideration
    • Further, apart from contiguity, geographical features, better connectivity, means of communication, public convenience will also be kept in view, and areas divided by rivers or hilly ranges or forests and other such natural barriers will not be put in the same constituency.

Problems with Delimitation?

  • States that are unconcerned about population control may end up with more seats in Parliament.
  • The southern states that promoted family planning risked having their seats reduced.
  • Delimitation was done in 2008 based on the 2001 census, but the total number of seats in the Assemblies and Parliament was determined based on the 1971 Census, which was not changed.
  • The constitution also limits the number of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats to a maximum of 550 and 250, respectively, and growing populations are represented by a single representative.

Delimitation Commission

  • Appointed by – It is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
  • Members- Its members are a serving or retired Supreme Court judge, Chief Election Commissioner, or an Election Commissioner nominated by CEC and Election Commissioners of the respective state.
  • Function- Its function is to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies, to identify seats reserved for SC/ST.
  • Powers- It is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.
  • Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972, and 2002.

Way forward

  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment has postponed this until 2026.
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
  • While 2026 is still a few years away. But we need to be clear on how to deal with the problems that are likely to arise, we will be forced to postpone the lifting of the freeze to a future date as was done in 2001.
  • This will only postpone the problem for which we must find a solution sooner or later.

Mains model question

  • According to the 84th Amendment Act, constituency boundaries are frozen until the first census after 2026, or at least until 2031. What are the ramifications of this change? Should India return to decadal revisions of constituency boundaries in light of India’s changing demographics? Comment.

References