Electoral Reforms In India

Understanding the Delimitation Exercise


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Delimitation Commission, Article 82 and Article 170

Mains level: Representativeness in Democracy and the role of Delimitiation



  • The impending delimitation exercise for Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, based on the first Census after 2026, has sparked discussions and raised pertinent questions.

Understanding Delimitation

  • Definition: Delimitation entails fixing the number of seats and boundaries of territorial constituencies, including the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), based on census data.
  • Constitutional Mandate: Article 82 (Lok Sabha) and Article 170 (State Legislative Assemblies) mandate readjustment of seats after each Census, performed by the Delimitation Commission.
  • Historical Precedent: Delimitation exercises were conducted post the 1951, 1961, and 1971 Censuses, highlighting its periodic nature.

About Delimitation Commission

  • The Delimitation Commission is a high-powered committee entrusted with the task of drawing and redrawing of boundaries of different constituencies for state assembly and Lok Sabha election.
  • It is appointed by the President and works in collaboration with the Election Commission.
  • The Commission consists of –
  1. A retired or working Supreme Court Judge (chairperson)
  2. Election Commissioner
  3. Concerned State Election Commissioners
  • DC’s orders have the force of law and CANNOT be called in question before any court.
  • The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies concerned, but they cannot effect any modifications in the orders.

Need for Delimitation

  • Democracy and Representation: The essence of democracy mandates ‘one citizen-one vote-one value,’ necessitating periodic readjustment of seats to reflect population changes.
  • Freezing of Seats: Seats have been frozen since 1971 to encourage population control, with the freeze extended until 2026 through the 84th Amendment Act.

Why is this exercise problematic?

  • Uneven Population Growth: Population disparities among states pose challenges, with some states experiencing rapid growth while others stagnate.
  • Options Discussed: Options include redistributing existing seats among states or increasing the total seats to reflect population changes.
  • Constituency Shrinkage: Electorates often lose their representation due to the merger of constituencies.

International Perspectives

  • United States: The U.S. redistributes seats among states after each Census to maintain proportionality, ensuring minimal disruption.
  • European Union: EU Parliament uses a principle of ‘degressive proportionality,’ where seats are allocated based on population ratios.

Way forward

  • Harmonizing Principles: Balancing democratic representation and federal principles is crucial. Capping Lok Sabha seats at the current 543 ensures continuity, while increasing State Legislative Assembly seats aligns with democratic representation.
  • Empowering Local Bodies: Strengthening democracy involves empowering grassroots institutions like panchayats and municipalities, enhancing citizen engagement and governance.


  • The delimitation exercise presents a delicate balance between democratic representation and federal principles.
  • By adopting a nuanced approach that respects constitutional mandates while empowering local governance, India can navigate the complexities of delimitation, ensuring inclusive and effective representation for its diverse populace.

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