Delimitation exercise of J&K

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    • Recently, the Supreme Court questioned petitioners about the reason for not challenging the constitutional validity of a specific provision in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act.

    More about the news

    • Delimitation exercise in question:
      • A provision in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 that confers the Delimitation Commission with the power to “carry out” the re-adjustment of constituencies in the Union Territory formed after the abrogation of Article 370 in the erstwhile State was in question.
    • Issue:
      • Authority to conduct delimitation:
        • The petitioners alleged that Sections 60 and 61 of the 2019 Act, which defined the role of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the process of delimitation of constituencies, were in contradiction to Section 62.
        • The petitioners argued that only the ECI, under Section 60 of the J&K Reorganisation Act, was empowered to conduct the delimitation exercise. 
      • Census in consideration:
        • They further argued before the Bench that Article 170 of the Constitution barred delimitation exercise on the basis of the 2011 census
        • It had to either happen on the basis of 2001 census or await the first census after the year 2026.
    • Government’s response:
      • The government has countered that there were two alternative mechanisms to carry out delimitation for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. 
      • By virtue of Sections 60-61, while the power to determine delimitation was conferred on the ECI, Section 62(2) and 62(3) conferred powers to carry out delimitation on the Delimitation Commission.

    About Delimitation of J&K

    • Delimitation Meaning:
      • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat to represent changes in population over time.
    • Role of Delimitation Commission:
      • This exercise is carried out by a Delimitation Commission, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be questioned before any court. 
    • Delimitation Exercises in J&K:
      • Before J&K Reorganization Act:
        • The erstwhile J&K state had 111 seats. 
          • 46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu, and four in Ladakh — plus 24 seats reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
        • When Ladakh was carved out as a Union Territory, J&K was left with 107 seats, including the 24 for PoK. 
          • The Reorganisation Act increased the seats to 114 — 90 for Jammu & Kashmir, besides the 24 reserved for PoK.
        • In the erstwhile state, delimitation of parliamentary constituencies was governed by the Constitution of India and that of Assembly seats was carried out by the then state government under the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957
      • After enactment of J&K Reorganization Act:
        • After the abrogation of J&K’s special status in 2019, the delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in the newly-created Union Territory would be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution. 
        • On March 6, 2020, the government set up the Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, which was tasked with winding up delimitation in J&K in a year. 
        • As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, the number of Assembly seats in J&K would increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to benefit the Jammu region.

    Recommendation of Delimitation Commission for J&K:

    • Constituencies redrawal:
      • Delimitation Commission has recommended seven additional constituencies:
        • 6 for Jammu
        • 1 for Kashmir
        • Jammu Division will now have 43 seats compared to 37 earlier
        • While Kashmir Valley will have 47 seats compared to 46 earlier.
    • Major Recommendations:
      • Reorganisation of the Parliamentary constituencies so that 5 Lok Sabha seats constitute 18 Assembly constituencies each, taking the total number of assembly constituencies to 90.
      • Reserving 9 Assembly seats for Scheduled Tribes, 6 in Jammu while 3 in Kashmir.
      • Doing away with regional distinction between Jammu and Kashmir and treating it as one. 
        • The Anantnag region in Kashmir has been combined with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu to carve out Anantnag-Rajouri as one Parliamentary constituency.
    • Kashmiri Migrants:
      • The Commission has recommended provision of at least two members from the community of Kashmiri Migrants (Kashmiri Hindus) in the Legislative Assembly.
      • It has also recommended that Centre should consider giving representation in the J&K Legislative Assembly to the displaced persons from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who migrated to Jammu after Partition.
    • Schedule Tribes:
      • The Commission has reserved nine Assembly seats for Scheduled Tribes. Six of these are in the redrwan Anantnag parliamentary seat, including in Poonch and Rajouri, which has the highest ST population.

    Delimitation Commission: 

    • About:
      • The Delimitation Commission in India is a high-power body whose orders have the force of law.
      • Its orders cannot be called in question before any court.
      • These orders come into force on a date to be specified by the President of India on 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.
    • Constitutional Provisions:
      • Article 82: This provides the Parliament with the authority to enact a Delimitation Act after every Census.
      • Article 170: This provides for the  States to get divided into territorial constituencies as per the Delimitation Act after every Census.
    • Functions:
      • To determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
      • Identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes wherever their population is relatively large.
      • In case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the will of majority prevails.
    • Composition:
      • The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India includes following members:
      • Retired Supreme Court judge
      • Chief Election Commissioner
      • Respective State Election Commissioners.
    • Frequency:
      • In India, such 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 Act, 1972
      • In 2002 under Delimitation Act, 2002.

    Source: IE