Understanding Jammu & Kashmir’s Delimitation Debate

As the new Home Minister Amit Shah prepares to introduce his maiden bill in Lok Sabha, the discussion over the delimitation of the constituencies has gained the momentum. The stated objective behind the move is that Jammu region has long been discriminated against the Kashmir region, as they have 37 and 46 seats respectively and Ladakh having 4 assembly seats. Talks regarding setting up of a Delimitation Commission are already underway. Last readjustment was done way back in 1995.

Talking about the share of area and representation, as per the data available from the 2011 census report, Jammu division had 25.93 per cent of the area and 42.89 per cent of the population. On the other hand, Kashmir division had 15.73 per cent of the state’s area and it holds 54.93 per cent of the population. Ladakh, the third division, had 58.33 per cent of the area having 2.18 per cent of the population.

But, what does delimitation means? Let’s have a quick look!

The Delimitation Commission is a body appointed by the Central Government which is responsible to demarcate the boundaries of the Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies. Article 82 of the Constitution says, “Upon the completion of each census, the allocation of seats in the House of the People to the States and the division of each State into territorial constituencies shall be readjusted by such authority and in such manner as Parliament may by law determine.”

The article provides that there is no need for readjustment for the House of people which has been readjusted on the basis of 1971 census till the first census after 2026, but it allows for the readjustment of territorial constituencies of each state on the basis of 2001 census. 2011 census data is also available.

As of now, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times; 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 as per the respective years Delimitation Act.

The objective of the Delimitation Act (2002) was to provide for the readjustment of the allocation of seats in

  • The House of the People to the States,
  • The total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of each State,
  • The division of each State and each Union Territory having a Legislative Assembly into territorial constituencies for elections to the House of the People and Legislative Assemblies of the States and Union Territories.

Section 3 of the Delimitation Act (2002) provides for the Constitution of Delimitation Commission. It says that after the commencement of this Act, the Central Government shall constitute a Commission which can be called as Delimitation Commission. The commission will consist of three members:

  • Chairman – A person who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court
  • Chief Election Commissioner or an Election Commissioner nominated by the Chief Election Commissioner (Ex officio member)
  • Ex officio member – State Election Commissioner of concerned State (Ex officio member)

Section 7 of the act provides for and power of the commission. It empowers the commission to determine its own procedure. While performing its functions, the commission has all the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. In case if there is a difference of opinion among the members, the opinion of the majority shall prevail, and acts and orders of the Commission shall be expressed in terms of the views of the majority. The Commission shall be deemed to be a civil court for the purposes of sections 345 and 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Election Commission of India by the virtue of section 11 has been empowered to maintain delimitation orders up to date. The provision for deferment of delimitation is also provided in the act in a situation where the unity and integrity of India is threatened or if there is a serious threat to the peace and public order. The President of India is to exercise this power.

The Delimitation Commission in India is said to be a very high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court. These orders come into force on a date to be specified by the President of India. The copies of its orders are laid before the House of the People and the State Legislative Assembly concerned, but no modifications are permissible by them.

While the people in government says that it will help in changing the composition of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly through reservations to communities such as the Sippis, the Bakerwals and the Gujjars who were given the status of Schedule Tribes way back in 1991. On the other hand, political analysts are of the view that BJP is planning to readjust the seats in order to increase the representation from the Jammu region which has a Hindu majority population. (Read this article for more insights)

Some are even viewing this as an opportunity for the BJP to place a Hindu CM in the state, which has been functioning under the President’s rule since December 2018. The state witnessed a collapse of the ruling alliance between PDP and BJP in 2018 which resulted in the imposition of the President’s rule.

Gautam Kumar Author

Gautam is a Speical Project Correspondent at TA.