Delimitation Commission By Rahul Saxena @ Lexcliq

Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat to represent changes in
population/demography over time.
Delimitation is undertaken by a highly powerful commission. They are formally known as Delimitation
Commission or Boundary Commission. A retired judge of the Supreme Court heads the Delimitation Commission, which draws its members from the Election Commission of India and state election commissions. According to the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission appointed by the Centre has to have three members: a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner
as ex-officio members. This committee has been set up by the honourable President after every census. As per article 82,
the Parliament then enacts the Delimitation Act. The functions of the committee range from-
Determining the boundaries in constituencies in such a manner so that the population of all seats
are the same. Where there is a significant proportion of scheduled caste and scheduled tribes, the commission
recognises them. In case of differing opinions of the members, the final decision is taken after majority
consideration. The committee releases the draft proposals for the general public in gazettes and regional
language newspapers.  Public sittings are conducted wherein the opinions are heard. Appropriate changes are made to the draft if such a proposal arises. The final order is then published in a gazette and the President takes the final call on this.
These bodies are so powerful that its orders have the force of law and they cannot be challenged
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 change in the number of
seats in a state.

 

Reason:

Fair division of geographical areas – so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others
in an election. Equal population across constituencies by determining the number and boundaries of constituencies
in such that “One Vote has only One Value”.
Adequate representation of vulnerable sections by identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes. At the national level, four Delimitation Commissions have been constituted till date for delineating fresh
boundaries of the constituencies and suggest the number of constituencies. The Delimitation Commissions were set up in 1952, 1963, 1972 and 2002. The number of Lok Sabha constituencies has not been revised since 1972. In 2002, it was frozen at 543 till 2026.
The last delimitation exercise was finished in 2008 when the 2001 Census was taken as the basis for readjusting
the boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies. Article 82 of the Constitution provides for enactment of a Delimitation Act after every census for this purpose.

In news: Delimitation 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,
delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India, but the delimitation of the
state’s Assembly seats was governed by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir
Representation of the People Act, 1957.

Reason for JnK Delimitation:

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, After the abrogation of J&K’s special status in 2019, delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in the
newly-created Union Territory would be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution. J&K Assembly, at that time, had 87 seats — 46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and 4 in Ladakh. Twenty-four more
seats are reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The freeze, some political parties argue, has created inequity
for Jammu region. However, in reality, the 42nd and 84th amendments froze the number of Lok Sabha seats for a period of 50
years (1981 to 2031 – First census post 2026) while population has continued to grow unabated.
As a result of which:  Equality of votes has been adversely affected as the value of votes in thickly populated states has
lowered in comparison to those in thinly populated states. Democracy has weakened as MP’s/MLA’s are now representing a huge, unmanageable size of voters. Perverse incentive has been extended to states that have not achieved any significant strides in
reducing their population, as this could help them get larger numbers of seats in the Parliament.

Solution:

To resolve concerns before 2026, a national consensus exercise should be launched. The weightage accorded to the population by the Finance Commission can be lowered to 10% or
even 5%. Although the cap on the number of Lok Sabha and Assemblies seats was supposed to be lifted
after the 2001 Census, another amendment delayed this until 2026. This was justified because, by 2026, the country will have attained a consistent population growth rate.

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