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SC on Delimitation Exercise in North-eastern States

  • Published
    12th Jul, 2023
Context

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) prima facie disagreed with the legal stand of the Election Commission of India (ECI) that it can only begin the delimitation process in Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh after getting an authorisation from the Centre.

Brief Background:

  • In pursuance to the request received from Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India, Election Commission of India decided to initiate the delimitation exercise of Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies in the State of Assam as per Section 8A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
  • Unlike other States, the ECI, and not the Delimitation Commission, have to conduct the delimitation exercise in these four States.
  • In the latest hearing, the SC observed that the Election Commission of India did not require the authorisation of the Government of India to conduct the exercise of delimitation.

About the Representation of the People Act, 1950:

  • Section 8A of The Representation of the People Act, 1950 deals with the delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur or Nagaland.
  • Section 8A(1) says that, subject to being satisfied that the conditions were conducive, the President can rescind the deferment of the delimitation exercise in the four States and provide for the conduct of delimitation exercise by the Election Commission.
  • Section 8A(2) provides that the Election Commission has to start the delimitation process to determine Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies in the four States as soon as the President rescinds the order.

Within the Constitutional Provisions and RPA 1950, there is no such mandate to take authorization of centre before starting a delimitation exercise.

Provisions supporting Delimitation:

  • As mandated under Article 170 of the Constitution, census figures (2001) shall be used for the purpose of readjustment of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies in the State.
  • Reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will be provided as per Articles 330 & 332 of the Constitution of India.

What is Delimitation?

  • ‘Delimitation’ is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats to represent changes in population dynamics.

What is the 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.

Need of such an exercise:

  • To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • Fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
  • To follow the principle of “One Vote One Value”.

The working of Delimitation Commission:

  • The Delimitation commissioner Boundary commission of India is a commission established by the Government of India under the provisions of the Delimitation Commission Act.
  • The main task of the commission is redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census.

Composition:

  • Retired Supreme Court judge
  • Chief Election Commissioner
  • Respective State Election Commissioners
  • The representation from each State is not changed during this exercise. However, the number of SC and ST seats in a state is changed in accordance with the census.
  • The present delimitation of constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 census under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002.
  • The Commission’s orders cannot be challenged in any court of law.
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