Issues Over Delimitation In The Northeast

  • 20 Jul 2020

  • A former legal advisor to the Election Commission (EC) has red-flagged the Centre’s order setting up a Delimitation Commission for Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland, calling it “unconstitutional” and “illegal”.

Chronology of Event

  • The last delimitation exercise, that started in 2002 and ended in 2008, had kept out Arunachal, Assam, Manipur and Nagalanddue to apprehensions over use of the 2001 Census.
  • The Delimitation Act of 2002 was amended on January 14, 2008, to empower the President to postpone the exercise in these states.
  • Subsequently, Parliament had decided that instead of creating another Delimitation Commission for the limited purpose of redrawing seat boundaries in the four northeastern states, the exercise there would be carried out by the EC.
  • Section 8A of the RP Act 1950 was introduced for this purpose.
  • In February, 2020, government rescinded a 2008 presidential order which had stalled the exercise by the Delimitation Commission in Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
  • Finally, in March, 2020, the Delimitation Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge RanjanaPrakash Desai was constituted to not only redraw constituencies in proportion to the population in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir as per the 2011 Census under the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019, but also in these NE states but with 2001 Census data under the Delimitation Act of 2002.

Why the new Delimitation Commission has been called “illegal” and “unconstitutional”?

  • In 2008, after the President deferred delimitation, the Parliament decided that instead of creating another Delimitation Commission in future for the limited purpose of redrawing seat boundaries in the four northeastern states, the exercise there would be carried out by the EC.
  • The Representation of the People Act 1950 was amended, and Section 8A was introduced for this purpose.
  • The Law Ministry’s notification of March, 2020, violates the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
  • Since the RP Act, 1950 clearly states that delimitation in the four northeastern states, when held, would fall within the EC’s remit, the Centre should not have notified a separate Delimitation Commission for this purpose.
  • Hence, any delimitation exercise in these states by the new Delimitation Commission would be declared void by the courts and, subsequently, result in wastage of huge precious public funds.

Will delimitation change the number of seats in these states?

  • No, there is a freeze until 2026 on the number of LokSabha and Assembly seats in any state.
  • Delimitation will only redraw the boundaries of seats in each state, and can rework the number of reserved seats for SCs and STs.
  • However, because of exceptional past circumstances, Jammu & Kashmir’s Assembly seats will now increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to increase Jammu region’s representation.


  • It is the act of redrawing boundaries of LokSabha and Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
  • In this process, the number of seats allocated to a state may also change.


  • To provide equal representation for equal population segments.
  • A fair division of geographical areas, so that no political party has an advantage.

Process of Delimitation

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.

Past Commissions

  • The first delimitation exercise was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission) in 1950-51.
  • The Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.
  • Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
  • There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Delimitation Commission

  • The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.


  • Retired Supreme Court judge, Chief Election Commissioner, Respective State Election Commissioners.


  • To determine the number and boundaries of constituencies to make population of all constituencies nearly equal.
  • To identify seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, wherever their population is relatively large.