Delimitation Commission For Jammu & Kashmir


  • In a move that will pave the way for assembly elections in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the Centre has begun the process of fresh delimitation of assembly seats as well as readjustment of boundaries of parliamentary constituencies.
  • Based on a request from the Ministry of Legislative Affairs (MLA), Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has nominated Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his representative in the proposed Delimitation Commission for J&K.
  • Prior to 2019, the State of Jammu and Kashmir had a bicameral legislature with a Legislative Assembly (lower house) and a Legislative Council (upper house). The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, passed by the Parliament of India in August 2019, replaced this with a unicameral legislature while also reorganised the state into a union territory.

Need

  • Even though the population in Jammu has increased over the years, Kashmir continues to have a disproportionately larger share of Assembly constituencies. This has effectively meant that only a party strong in Kashmir Valley is able to lead the state government.

History of Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir

  • Delimitation of Jammu & Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution, but delimitation of its Assembly seats (before special status was abrogated) was governed separately by the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • As far as delimitation of Lok Sabha seats is concerned, the last Delimitation Commission of 2002 was not entrusted with this task. Hence, J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census.
  • The last time a delimitation exercise took place in the state was also under President's Rule, as far back as 1995 in extremely difficult circumstances by Justice KK Gupta Commission.
  • Further, the government headed by Farooq Abdullah, in 2002, pushed for a freeze on delimitation till 2026 by amending the J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957, and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of J&K.

Composition of the Commission

  • According to Section 3 of the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission appointed by the Centre has to have three members:
    • A serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson
    • The Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC
    • The State Election Commissioner as ex-officio member

Tasks Assigned

  • The delimitation panel will determine the assembly constituencies into which the UT shall be divided; the extent of such constituencies and which of these shall be reserved for SCs/STs.
  • It is also tasked with adjustment of boundaries and description of the extent of parliamentary constituencies in each UT.

Increase in Seat

  • According to the Act, the number of seats in the Assembly of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114 after delimitation, on the basis of the 2011 Census.
  • Notably, 24 of the total seats in J&K remain perennially vacant as they are allotted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • The Lok Sabha will have five seats from the UT of J&K, while Ladakh will have one seat.

What is Delimitation?

  • 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.
  • The job of delimitation is assigned to a high power body. Such a body is known as Delimitation Commission or a Boundary Commission.

Objective

  • To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.

Constitutional Provision

  • Under Article 82 of the Constitution, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. After coming into force, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission, comprising of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioner.

Process of Delimitation

  • The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large. All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
  • After hearing the public, it considers 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.

Delimitation Commissions Till Now

  • So far, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times :
    • in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952
    • in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962
    • in 1973 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1972
    • in 2002 under Delimitation Commission Act, 2002.
  • There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Significance

  • Delimiting electoral boundaries can have major consequences for the voters, political groups and communities of interest residing within these constituencies as well as for the representatives elected to serve these constituencies. Ultimately, the election outcome and the political composition of the legislature may be affected by the constituency boundaries.
  • A failure to recognize the importance of the electoral boundary, delimitation process, and its impact can have serious ramifications: If stakeholders suspect that electoral boundaries have been unfairly manipulated – benefiting some groups at the expense of others – this will affect the credibility and the legitimacy of the election process and its outcome.
  • To sum up, delimitation is an integral part of the drive to achieve effective representation and governance in a democracy. The fewer the constraints it operates within, the more it will be able to contribute to this objective.

Source : Civil Services Chronicle Online, February, 2020