J&K – The issues around the state

Panel notifies new J&K Assembly Constituencies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delimitation of constituencies

Mains level : Abrogation of Art. 370 and Ladakh

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission has notified the new boundaries, names and number of Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, paving the way for the first-ever Assembly election in the Union Territory.

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.
  • The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
  • 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 is it carried out?

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Article 170 provides that States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  • The first delimitation exercise was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission) in 1950-51.
  • The Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.
  • Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
  • There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Delimitation in J&K

  • Assembly seats in J&K were delimited in 1963, 1973 and 1995.
  • Prior to August 5, 2019, carving out of J&K’s Assembly seats was carried out under the J&K Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • Until then, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India.
  • However, the delimitation of the state’s Assembly was governed by the J&K Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and hence no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state until 2001 census.

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.

Next step: Assembly polls

  • With the final order now notified, all eyes will be on the EC and the Union government regarding the timing of Assembly elections.
  • Though mainstream parties in the Valley have criticised the report, it is likely that this will make space for political engagement in the UT.

What changes have been made?

  • ASSEMBLY: The Commission has increased seven Assembly seats — six in Jammu (now 43 seats) and one in Kashmir (now 47). It has also made massive changes in the structure of the existing Assembly seats.
  • LOK SABHA: The Commission has redrawn the boundaries of Anantnag and Jammu seats. Jammu’s Pir Panjal region, comprising Poonch and Rajouri districts and formerly part of Jammu parliamentary seat, has now been added to Anantnag seat in Kashmir. Also, a Shia-dominated region of Srinagar parliamentary constituency has been transferred to Baramulla constituency, also in the Valley.
  • KASHMIRI PANDITS: The Commission has recommended provision of at least two members from the community of Kashmiri Migrants (Kashmiri Hindus) in the Legislative Assembly.
  • Seats for POK migrants: It has also recommended that Centre should consider giving representation in the J&K Legislative Assembly to the displaced persons from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who migrated to Jammu after Partition.

Why has the exercise been controversial?

  • Jammu vs. Kashmir: Concerns had been expressed over how the delimitation process may end up favoring the Jammu region over Kashmir in terms of the seats.
  • Under-representation of Ladakh: Arguments have been made on how Ladakh has been underrepresented, with demands for statehood/sixth schedule.
  • Non-proportionate reservations: It is argued that seats for STs should’ve been divided in both Jammu province & Kashmir province, as the ST population is almost equal.
  • Frozen till 2026: Constituency boundaries are being redrawn only in J&K when delimitation for the rest of the country has been frozen until 2026. The last delimitation exercise in J&K was carried out in 1995.
  • Issue over reorganization: Again, political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been pointing out that the Delimitation Commission is mandated by the Reorganisation Act, which is sub judice.

 

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