Delimitation In Jammu and Kashmir

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    Recently, the Delimitation Commission for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has started the exercise by writing to all 20 District Commissioners (DC).

    • On Independence Day 2020, the Prime Minister of India had said that elections would be held in J&K after the delimitation process in the Union Territory was over. 

     

    About Delimitation

    • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat to represent changes in population over time.
    • This exercise is carried out by a Delimitation Commission, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be questioned before any court. 
    • 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.
    • The Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission once the Act is in force.
    • Objective
    • To provide equal representation for equal population segments and a fair division of geographical areas so that no political party has an advantage

     

    Delimitation Exercises in J&K in the Past

    • Delimitation exercises in J&K in the past have been slightly different from those in the rest of the country because of the region’s special status — which was scrapped by the Centre in August 2019. 
    • Until then, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India
      •  But the delimitation of the state’s Assembly seats was governed by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
    • Assembly seats in J&K were delimited in 1963, 1973 and 1995. 
      • The last exercise was conducted by the Justice (retired) KK Gupta Commission when the state was under President’s Rule and was based on the 1981 census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996. 
      • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on the fresh delimitation of seats until 2026.
        • This freeze was upheld by the Supreme Court.
        •  The freeze, some political parties argue, has created inequity for the Jammu region.

     

    Delimitation Commission set up in 2020

     

    • 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.
      • Apart from Desai, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and J&K State Election Commissioner KK Sharma are the ex-officio members of the delimitation panel.

     

    Present status 

    • Although the Commission was tasked to finish delimitation in a year, on March 4 2021, it was granted a year’s extension.
      • This was done at the request of the panel members since it couldn’t make much progress due to the Covid-19-induced shutdown across the country. 
    • Early this month(June), the Election Commission wrote to Deputy Commissioners of all 20 districts in J&K seeking fresh information on several aspects including population density and topography in all the districts and Assembly constituencies. 
    • All districts have shared information.
      • This was done to study the geographical spread of the Assembly seats, to see whether a seat is within one district or spread over several districts,” said a source.

     

    Political Response So Far

    • The Commission’s work got off to a rocky start when its meeting in February with the five associate members (who are meant to be elected representatives from the UT) was attended by just two.  
    • National Conference MPs refused to participate, stating that the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 was “palpably unconstitutional” and that till the time the Supreme Court decides the constitutional validity of this law, no decisions (read delimitation) emanating from the Act should be implemented.
    • Also the Gupkar Alliance recently stated that it is open for dialogue with the Union government on J&K, the members of the Delimitation Commission are hopeful of a positive outcome.
      • The Gupkar Declaration was a resolution passed by NC, PDP, Congress, CPI(M), JKPC and ANC on August 4, 2019, pledging to protect the “identity, autonomy and special status” of J&K.

    Delimitation Commission

    • It is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
    • Its members are a serving or retired Supreme Court judge, Chief Election Commissioner or an Election Commissioner nominated by CEC and Election Commissioners of the respective state.
    • Its function is to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies, to identify seats reserved for SC/ST.
    • It is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.
    • Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

     

    Source: IE