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Governance

Delimitation

  • 26 Aug 2019
  • 5 min read

Why in the news?

The bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh has made delimitation of their electoral constituencies inevitable. Recently, the EC has held “internal discussions” on the Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation Act, 2019, particularly its provisions on delimitation.

What is Delimitation?

Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country to represent changes in population.

Why Delimitation?

  • To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • Fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
  • To follow the principle of “One Vote One Value”.

How delimitation is carried out?

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Under Article 170, 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 Commission

  • The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
  • Composition:
    • Retired Supreme Court judge
    • Chief Election Commissioner
    • Respective State Election Commissioners
  • Functions:
    • To determine the number and boundaries of constituencies to make population of all constituencies nearly equal.
    • To identify seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, wherever their population is relatively large.
  • In case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
  • The Delimitation Commission in India is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.

Current Position of Delimitation

  • In the 2009 General elections, 499 out of total 543 Parliamentary constituencies were newly delimited constituencies.
  • This affected the National Capital Region of Delhi, The Union territory of Puducherry and all other states except J&K, Arunachal Pradesh,Assam,Jharkhand,Manipur and Nagaland.

Problems with Delimitation

  • States that take 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.
  • In 2008, Delimitation was done based on the 2001 census, but the total number of seats in the Assemblies and Parliament decided as per the 1971 Census was not changed.
  • The constitution has also capped the number of Lok Shaba & Rajya Sabha seats to a maximum of 550 & 250 respectively and increasing populations are being represented by a single representative.

Steps to be taken

  • A national consensus exercise should be started to sort out issues much before 2026.
  • The weightage given by the Finance Commission to population can be reduced to 10%, or even 5%.

Way Forward

  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment has postponed this until 2026.
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
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