North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Issues over Delimitation in the Northeast


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission

Mains level: Delimitation of constituencies

The Election Commission has red-flagged the Union government’s order setting up a Delimitation Commission for Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland, calling it “unconstitutional” and “illegal”. When delimitation last took place in the rest of the country in 2002-08, these states had been left out.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognized political parties.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

What is delimitation and why is it needed?

  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
  • In this process, the number of seats allocated to a state may also change.
  • The objective is to provide equal representation for equal population segments and a fair division of geographical areas so that no political party has an advantage.
  • The Delimitation Commission’s orders cannot be questioned before any court.

Legal status

  • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission (DC).
  • The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court as it would hold up an election indefinitely.

How is delimitation carried out?

  • 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.
  • 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.

Northeast’s concerns

  • In the last delimitation exercise, completed in 2008, Arunachal, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland were kept out due to apprehensions overuse of the 2001 Census.
  • The Centre’s move to club the four with J&K comes in the backdrop of unrest in the region over CAA.

Why were these four states left out in 2002-08?

  • In Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, various organisations had moved the Gauhati High Court against the 2002-08 exercise, challenging the use of the 2001 Census for reference.
  • From Assam, an all-party delegation met then Home Minister pleading that delimitation is called off because the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was yet to be updated.
  • The Delimitation Act was amended in 2008, and on February 8, 2008, Presidential orders were issued to defer delimitation in these four states.

So, when did the government decide to resume delimitation?

  • In February this year, President Kovind cleared the decks for the resumption of the delimitation exercise in the four states by cancelling the earlier order.
  • It noted that there had been a reduction in insurgency incidents, making the situation conducive for carrying out delimitation.

Will delimitation change the number of seats in these states?

  • Not in the four Northeast states. There is a freeze until 2026 on the number of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in any state.
  • Delimitation will only redraw the boundaries of seats in each state and can rework the number of reserved seats for SCs and STs.
  • However, because of exceptional past circumstances, Jammu & Kashmir’s Assembly seats will now increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to increase the Jammu region’s representation.

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