J&K – The issues around the state

Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delimitation of constituencies

Mains level : Jammu and Kashmir after reorganization

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission has completed its consultation with various and stated that it would base its final report on the 2011 Census to add at least seven more seats to the 83-member Assembly of the erstwhile state.

Agenda for delimitation

  • Delimitation will be conducted on the basis of the 2011 census report. This assumes significance because the last delimitation exercise was conducted 26 years ago in 1995, and that too was based on the census of 1981.
  • Apart from the demographics indicated in the Census, the commission will also take into account practicality, geographical compatibility, topography, physical features, means of communication and convenience available.
  • Twenty-four seats that are reserved for Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) would not be delimited in this process. This further makes the delimitation exercise relevant because some political parties argue, that this freeze has created inequity for the Jammu region.
  • The commission will also specify the number of seats to be reserved for the SC and the ST communities in the UT. This is important because despite having a sizeable tribal population, no seats had ever been reserved in the past for the Scheduled Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • A draft report will be prepared and put in the public domain for consensus and feedback. Only after the fresh comments, the final draft will be prepared.

What is Delimitation and why is it needed?

  • 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.
  • 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 often has delimitation been carried out in J&K?

  • Delimitation exercises in J&K in the past have been slightly different from those in the rest of the country because of the region’s special status — which was scrapped by the Centre in August 2019.
  • Until then, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India, but the delimitation of the state’s Assembly was governed by the J&K Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • Assembly seats in J&K were delimited in 1963, 1973 and 1995.
  • The last exercise was conducted by the Justice (retired) K K Gupta Commission when the state was under President’s Rule and was based on the 1981 census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.
  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze until 2026.

Why is it in the news again?

  • After the abrogation of J&K’s special status in 2019, the delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in the newly-created UT would be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
  • On March 6, 2020, the government set up the Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, which was tasked with winding up delimitation in J&K in a year.
  • As per the J&K Reorganization Bill, the number of Assembly seats in J&K would increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to benefit the Jammu region.
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