J&K delimitation likely to give more political heft to Jammu

Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir

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Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir
Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir

In News:

  • The Centre has decided to complete the delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir within a year.
  • This exercise is likely to tilt the balance of power towards Jammu region with more MLAs than Kashmir in the Union Territory’s legislature.
  • Also, the delimitation commission will simultaneously undertake a similar exercise in the four north-eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.

News Summary:

  • The process of delimitation of Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been set in motion with the appointment of former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai as chairperson of Delimitation Commission.
  • The Commission will delimit the constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act.
  • Section 60 of the J&K Reorganization Act stipulates that the number of seats in its Legislative Assembly will be increased to 114, from the present 107.
  • The total assembly seats after delimitation will go up from 107 to 114.
  • According to the J&K Reorganization Act, seven seats are to be added to the present 85 in J&K. PoK with 24 allotted seats will remain untouched in the delimitation exercise.
  • The Election Commission will publish its proposals for delimitation of constituencies along with dissenting proposals, if any, in the official gazette with a notice inviting objections and suggestions.
  • A final decision will be taken only after giving consideration to all suggestions.
NOTE: Delimitation of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland in accordance with the provisions of the Delimitation Act, 2002.

About: Delimitation in India

  • Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body.
  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
  • In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
  • Objective: To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • Aim: Fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.

Which body carries out Delimitation?

  • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission a Boundary Commission.

Composition of Delimitation Commission:

  • The Delimitation Commission is composed of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.

Functions:

  • The primary function of a Delimitation commission is to fix the limits/ boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies.
  • The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
NOTE: In case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.

How is delimitation carried out?

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • After the act comes in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  • The Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, (as far as practicable) the same for all states.
  • On the basis of the latest Census, the Commission determines the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats is the same as far as possible.
  • The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published for public feedback, objections and suggestions and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  • The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
NOTE: To change the composition of state legislative assembly, the Parliament will have to amend Article 170 of the Constitution.

Points to be noted:

  • The Delimitation Commission in India is a high-power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.
  • These orders come into force on a date to be specified by the President of India in this behalf.
  • The copies of its orders are laid before the House of the People and the State Legislative Assembly concerned, but no modifications are permissible therein by them.

History of Delimitation in India:

  • The first delimitation exercise was carried out in 1950-51 by the President (with the help of the Election Commission), as the Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
  • This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census.
  • Hence, another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.
  • The Election Commission advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission. This suggestion was accepted and the Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.

Delimitation Commissions in India:

  • In India, such Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times:
    1. in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952,
    2. in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962,
    3. in 1973 under Delimitation Act, 1972 and
    4. in 2002 under Delimitation Act, 2002
  • The last Delimitation Commission was setup in 2002 in India. It was constituted under the chairmanship of Justice Kuldeep Singh, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The delimitation exercise to readjust the division of each State and Union territory into territorial constituencies for the purpose of elections to the Lok Sabha and to the State Legislative Assemblies on the basis of 2001 census figures was completed by November 26, 2008.
  • Delimitation Commission completed the delimitation exercise and the Delimitation Order, 2008 in respect of all states, except Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
  • This exercise was postponed in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland on apprehension of threat to the peace and public order.
NOTE: There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Why was there no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses?

  • The provision of allotting Lok Sabha seats to a state in accordance with the population of the state defeats the population control policy of the country and the southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
  • To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.

Exceptions:

  • Despite the ban, there were a few occasions that called for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seats allocated to a state.
  • These include statehood attained by Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in 1986, the creation of a Legislative Assembly for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and creation of new states such as Uttarakhand.
NOTE: Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026, hoping a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.

Background: Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir

  • The last delimitation exercise was done in 1992-95.
  • In 2002 Farooq Abdullah government arbitrarily amended the state’s constitution to prevent any delimitation exercise till 2026.
  • It was done to retain political power within the Kashmir valley region that has a predominantly Muslim population of over 96%. Thus J&K did not figure in the nationwide delimitation exercise carried out in 2008.
  • Note: J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census as there was no census in the state in 1991.
  • After abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir state was carved into two separate UTs of J&K and Ladakh, the former with a legislature.
  • The bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh calls for delimitation of their electoral constituencies.

Jammu and Kashmir Assembly seats at present:

  • Before J&K was reorganized, there were 46 assembly seats in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and four in Ladakh.
  • 24 seats are reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Change in Balance of power towards Jammu region:

  • After delimitation, Jammu is likely to gain five seats and Kashmir two.
  • This will shift the balance of power to Hindu majority Jammu from Muslim majority Kashmir.
  • Muslim constitute around 70 per cent of the population in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Though Hindus constitute a majority in Jammu, Muslims comprise a sizeable 38 per cent of the population mostly in Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley.
  • The Jammu region, which saw largescale migration (both Muslims and Hindus) from the militancy-hit Kashmir since the 1990s, will have more representatives in the new legislature.
  • However, if more seats are allotted to the Jammu region based on population, each constituency will have a mix of voters unlike Kashmir.
  • The delimitation exercise will also lead to a number of reserved constituencies based on Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe settlements and will further tilt the balance in favour of Jammu region.

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