From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Delimitation of constituencies
Mains level : Not Much
The Election Commission is set to begin the delimitation exercise of Assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Assam using census figures of 2001.
Why discuss this?
- The last delimitation of constituencies in Assam was done on the basis of census figures of 1971 by the then Delimitation Commission in 1976.
What is 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.
Why is it needed?
- The objective is to redraw boundaries (based on the data of the last Census) in a way so that the population of all seats, as far as practicable, be the same throughout the State.
- Aside from changing the limits of a constituency, the process may result in a change in the number of seats in a state.
How is delimitation carried out?
- Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC).
- Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
- Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a DC made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
Terms of reference for DC
- The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
- The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
- All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
- The draft proposals of the DC are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
- The Commission also holds public sittings.
- After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
- The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
How often has delimitation been done in the past?
- The first delimitation exercise in 1950-51 was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission).
- The Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
- This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census. Hence, another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.
- Pointing out that the first delimitation had left many political parties and individuals unhappy, the EC advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission.
- This suggestion was accepted and the DC Act was enacted in 1952.
- DCs have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
Why postponed till 2026?
- There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
- Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
- This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
- So, the last delimitation exercise — started in July 2002 and completed on May 31, 2008 — was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats.
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