Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir

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    • Recently, the honourable Supreme Court junked pleas challenging the recommendations of Jammu & Kashmir delimitation commission.

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    • The Supreme Court of India has recently dismissed a petition challenging the Delimitation Commission that has redrawn constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • The petition was filed by two residents of Kashmir, Haji Abdul Gani Khan and Muhammad Ayub Matto.
    • The government had constituted the Delimitation Commission after the bifurcation and downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories in 2019.
    • The petitioners argued that the constituencies across the country should remain unchanged until the first census after 2026, which was based on the 1971 Census.
    • However, the government stated that the Delimitation Commission was part of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act passed in 2019 after the abrogation of Article 370.
    • Previously, the President had formed a three-member Delimitation Commission chaired by Justice (retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai and members including Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and J&K State Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma as ex-officio members.
    • The Commission has faced unique challenges in carrying out the delimitation process, including a wide range of population density, geographical barriers, and inadequate conveniences along the International Border.

    What is the Delimitation Commission?

    • Delimitation is the process of redrawing electoral boundaries to ensure that each constituency has a roughly equal number of voters in order to prevent any one community from having an unfair advantage in elections.
    • The provision for Delimitation Commission in India is enshrined in Article 82 of the Constitution of India.
    • The first Delimitation Commission was set up in 1952 after the first general elections were held in India.
    • Previously, the 2002 and 2008 delimitation exercises were carried out for all states and Union Territories except Jammu and Kashmir, which was covered by a separate Delimitation Commission in 1995.
    • The most recent reconstitution of the Delimitation Commission took place in 2020 when a three-member Delimitation Commission was constituted for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

    Composition of Delimitation Commission

    • The Delimitation Commission is a high-level body that is set up by the President of India.
    • The Commission is composed of a chairperson and four other members, all of whom are either retired or serving judges of the Supreme Court or High Courts.
    • The members are appointed by the President after consulting the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
    • The Delimitation Commission is supported by a secretariat that is headed by a Director.

    Important features

    • The Delimitation Commission is responsible for redrawing the boundaries of Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha constituencies.
    • The Commission takes into account factors such as geography, topography, and the boundaries of administrative units such as districts and tehsils.
    • The Commission also takes into account the number of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in each constituency and ensures that their interests are protected.
    • It has the power to increase or decrease the number of seats in a state or Union Territory.
    • The delimitation exercise is carried out after each census to ensure that the electoral boundaries reflect the changing demographic profile of the country.

    Key Recommendations of the Delimitation Commission on J&K

    • The new Assembly would have 90 seats, with 47 in Kashmir and 43 in Jammu which is an increase from the earlier 83, with six additional seats in Jammu and one in Kashmir.
    • For the first time in J&K, nine seats have been reserved for Scheduled Tribes, with six in Jammu and three in the Kashmir Valley while seven seats have been reserved for Scheduled Castes.
    • The Centre should nominate at least two “Kashmiri migrants” to the Legislature who would have the same powers as nominated members of the Puducherry Assembly.
    • Centre should consider giving “some representation” to persons displaced from Pakistan-occupied J&K. However, this is a proposal that the Centre will decide on.
    • The Commission has merged two areas, Anantnag region in the Valley and Rajouri and Poonch of Jammu region, into one Lok Sabha constituency. This move has been criticized by regional parties as the two areas remain cut off in winter and have no direct access.
    • The Commission has restored old names and reworked a few Assembly segments in the Kashmir division that had been renamed in the previous draft and had evoked criticism from local parties.
    • The Delimitation Commission has seen Jammu & Kashmir as a single entity for the purposes of the delimitation, and each Parliamentary constituency will now have an equal number of 18 Assembly constituencies.

    Way ahead

    • Delimitation Commission is an important body that plays a key role in ensuring that the electoral boundaries in India are fair and equitable. 
    • With recommendations being notified, it has paved the way for the first-ever Assembly elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. 
    • While some of the Commission’s decisions have faced criticism from regional parties, the delimitation process aims to ensure equal representation of the population in elections, a key aspect of democracy.

    Source: TH