From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Delimitation Commission
Mains level : Delimitation of constituencies
A paper released by the Pranab Mukherjee Foundation (PMF) has suggested that the next delimitation exercise should be a two-step process:
- First a Delimitation Commission should be set up to redraw boundaries of constituencies on the basis of the 2031 Census
- And then a State Reorganization Act be passed to split States into smaller ones
Q.With the new Parliament House, the role of the Presiding officers of the Houses is going to be more challenging. Discuss, how.
Back in news
- PM recently inaugurated a brand new Parliament Annexe building that will afford our lawmakers more space and enable better functioning.
- In a few years from now, we might actually need a new building for Parliament altogether due to the likely increase in a number of seats in both Houses after the lifting of the freeze imposed by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976, which is due in 2026.
What is Delimitation? Why is it needed?
- Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
- In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
- The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
- It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
Why such debate?
- The 84th Amendment to the Constitution in 2002 had put a freeze on the delimitation of Lok Sabha and State Assembly constituencies till the first Census after 2026.
- While the current boundaries were drawn on the basis of the 2001 Census, the number of Lok Sabha seats and State Assembly seats remained frozen on the basis of the 1971 Census.
- The population according to the last census preceding the freeze was 50 crore, which in 50 years has grown to 130 crores.
- This has caused a massive asymmetry in the political representation in the country.
Why there are fewer delimitations?
- The Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as practicable, the same for all states.
- Although unintended, this provision implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament.
- The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
- To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.
- Despite the embargo, there were a few occasions that called for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seats allocated to a state.
- According to Article 81 of the Constitution — as it stood before the 42nd CAA 1976 — the Lok Sabha was to comprise of not more than 550 members.
- Clause (2) of Article 81 provided that there shall be allotted to each State a number of MPs in such manner that the ratio between that number and the population of the State is the same for all States.
- Further, clause (3) defined the expression “population” for the purposes of Article 81 to mean the population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published.
Dilemma over delimitation
- States which took a lead in population control faced the prospect of their number of seats getting reduced and States which had higher population figures stood to gain by increase in the number of seats in Lok Sabha.
- As a result of the freezing of the allocation of seats, the allocation done on the basis of the 1971 Census continues to hold good for the present population figures.
- According to the 2011 Census, the population of our country stands at 121 crores with a registered electorate of 83.41 crores.
- Basing the 1971 Census figure of 54.81 crores to represent today’s population presents a distorted version of our democratic polity and is contrary to what is mandated under Article 81 of the Constitution.
- So when the first Census figure will be available after 2026 — that is, in 2031 — a fresh delimitation will have to do which will dramatically alter the present arrangement of seat allocation to the States in Parliament.
Acquainting more MPs: A big challenge
- One question that has to be addressed is how the Presiding Officers of the Houses/Legislatures will deal with such a large number of members to capture the attention of the Speaker to raise issues in the House.
- Even with the current strength of 543 members, the Speaker finds it extremely difficult to conduct the proceedings of the House.
- Members do not show much heed to the appeals of the Speaker, thereby making smooth conduct of House proceedings a difficult affair.
- The Speaker’s directions and rulings are not shown proper respect, and disruptions of proceedings aggravate the problem.
- The sudden increase in numbers will render the task of the Speaker more difficult and onerous.
- While 2026 is still a few years away. But we need to be clear on how to deal with the problems that are likely to arise, we will be forced to postpone the lifting of the freeze to a future date as was done in 2001.
- This will only postpone the problem for which we must find a solution sooner or later.
- Even the various proposals for electoral reforms which have been recommended by various Commissions over the past decade do not address these issues.
- These are challenges which our political leaders have to address in the immediate future.