J&K: Residents Move SC Challenging Delimitation Exercise

New Delhi: Two residents of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir have moved a writ petition before the Supreme Court, challenging the March 2020 decision of the Central government of appointing a Delimitation Commission to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir.

The plea is moved by Haji Abdul Gani Khan and Dr. Mohammad Ayub Mattoo, hey are seeking a declaration that constitution of the Delimitation Commission u/s 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002, is without power, jurisdictions, and authority.

Through M/S LAWFIC the plea has been filed, and has been drawn by the Senior Advocate Ravi Shankar Jandhyala.

It may be noted that the process of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats in order to represent the changes in the population is Delimitation.

Only after completion of this exercise, so as to ensure the proper representation of population in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies, elections could be held.

The action of Central Government in issuing the notifications for Delimitation of Assembly Constituencies for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir was without jurisdiction as it usurped the jurisdiction of The Election Commission of India.

On March 6, 2020 a notification was issued by the union government in the exercise of power under section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002, with Justice (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai as Chairperson, constituting a Delimitation Commission, for the purpose of delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir and the state of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland, for a period of one year.

Extending the term of the Delimitation Commission by one more year, another notification was issued on March 3, 2021, omitting the names of the four states, and limited the scope of delimitation exercise to only UT of J&K, by the government.

The plea questions, when Art. 170 of the Constitution of India provides that the next delimitation in the country will be taken up after 2026, then why UT of Jammu and Kashmir had been singled out.

The plea further argues that any move in regard with increasing the number of seats at Jammu and Kashmir, by Constitutional Amendment, besides the amendment of Elections Laws, namely, the Delimitation Act, 2002 and the Representation of People Act, 1950, should be preceded.

“When the last Delimitation Commission was set up on 12th July 2002, in exercise of powers conferred by section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002, after the 2001 Census to carry out the exercise throughout the country, Delimitation Commission had issued Guidelines and Methodology for the Delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies vide Letter No. 282/DEL/2004 dated 5th July, 2004, along with the Constitutional and Legal Provisions. It clearly stated that the total number of existing seats in the Legislative Assemblies of all states, including UTs of the National Capital Region and Pondicherry, as fixed based on the 1971 census shall remain unaltered till the first census to be taken after the year 2026,” the plea states.

The petitioners have called it violative of Art 14 by averring that the Government’s order speaks of two different population ratios, referring to the central government’s call of constituting the Delimitation Commission to take up delimitation in the UT of J&K and states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland.

“The delimitation in UT of J&K’ is to be done on the basis of the 2011 population’, while the delimitation in the four states of the North East are to be done on the basis of the 2001 population. This is unconstitutional, violates Art 14, as it attracts Classification,” the plea states.

The order of the government of March 3,2021, omitting the names of states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland from the delimitation process and to conduct the process only for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir is unconstitutional, the plea states. 

“Nobody is competent to carry out the delimitation process since the delimitation has been completed and the Delimitation Commission itself has become inappropriate. Issuance of Notification by the Law and Legislative Department appointing the Delimitation Commission is without jurisdiction, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the election laws apart from J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019,” the plea concludes by averring thus.

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