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Supreme Court Upholds J&K Delimitation

  • Published
    14th Feb, 2023
Context

The Supreme Court dismissed a petition which challenged the delimitation exercise carried out for redrawing the Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.

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Key points highlighted  by the Supreme Court

  • Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution enable the Parliament to create new States and Union territories. Accordingly, the two new Union territories were created. 
  • The J&K Reorganisation Act which created the two new Union territories assigns the role of readjustment of constituencies to the Delimitation Commission under the Delimitation Act, 2002.
    • It is a law made under Article 3  and can always provide for the readjustment of the Constituencies in the newly constituted States or Union territories through the Delimitation Commission. 
  • Hence, there is no illegality associated with the establishment of the Delimitation Commission under the order of March 6, 2020.

The petition

  • The petition (by Srinagar residents) challenged the notification issued by the Centre in March 2020 establishing the Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission and a second one in March 2021 extending its term for the purpose of conducting delimitation only for Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Arguments:
    • Under Section 60 of the 2019 Act, only the Election Commission of India was empowered to conduct the delimitation exercise. 
    • Article 170 of the Constitution barred delimitation exercise on the basis of the 2011 census. It has to either happen on the basis of the 2001 census or await “the first census after the year 2026”.

What is Delimitation?

  • Delimitation refers to the demarcation of the boundaries of parliamentary or assembly constituencies.
  • The process is carried out by a delimitation commission every few years to ensure that each constituency has approximately an equal number of voters.

Delimitation Commission:

  • After every census, Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act under Article 82 of the Constitution.
  • Under this act, a high-powered body known as the Delimitation Commission is constituted.
  • It carries out the process of demarcation of constituency boundaries.
  • The orders of this commission are legally binding and not subject to the scrutiny of any court of law. Even Parliament cannot suggest modifications to an order issued by the commission.
  • The commission is a temporary body with no full-fledged staff of its own.
  • It relies on EC employees to carry out the long-drawn exercise.
  • Census data for each district, tehsil and gram panchayat is collected, and the new boundaries are demarcated.
  • The exercise can take up to five years.
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