NEW DELHI / SRINAGAR The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday avoided replying whether it was planning to conduct a delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir to remove regional imbalance in the State.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MP Asaduddin Owaisi raised a question in the Lok Sabha whether Jammu and Kashmir had not been included in the delimitation exercise taken up in the country and whether the government considered to undertake it with a view to remove the regional imbalance in the State.
Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said in a written response that Jammu and Kashmir was not included within the purview of the Delimitation Act, 2002, as Article 170 of the Constitution of India that deals with delimitation of constituencies of State Assemblies had not been extended to the State.
Delimitation of legislative Assembly constituencies in J&K is carried out under Section 47 and 141 of the Constitution of J&K, Mr. Reddy said.
He said there were 37,33,111 voters in the Jammu division, 40,10,971 in the Kashmir division and 1,79,147 in the Ladakh division.
He also said that the Election Commission of India had not fixed the dates for holding the Assembly elections in the State.
Notwithstanding clarification by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the government of India earlier this month asked States law and parliamentary affairs department to provide all files related to delimitation.
The development comes almost days after Ministry of Home Affairs claimed that there was no proposal under its consideration for a delimitation exercise in the state. The MHAs clarification had come amid reports that Home Minister Amit Shah has set up a commission to redraw the scope and size of the assembly segments and determine the number of seats to be reserved for Schedules Castes.
Taking Jammu and Kashmir on par with the rest of the states in India, the then Farooq Abdullah government had in 2002 amended the state constitution which froze delimitation commission till 2026.
On November 9, 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the freeze imposed by J&K government as it dismissed a plea that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution.
Rejecting J&K Panthers Party chief Bhim Singhs argument that it deprived Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes the right to represent the Valley, the apex court in a judgment had said that courts cannot interfere in matters of delimitation as there was an express Constitutional bar on such interference.
By an amendment to Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of J&K made in 2002, the state decided to freeze the delimitation exercise till 2026. The last census operation in the state was completed in 2001 but the delimitation was done in 1995.
The state High Court had upheld the validity of the amendment, following which the party appealed in the apex court.
The main plea of the petitioner was that the freeze would result in strong imbalances without the demographical changes being properly reflected and the essence of democracy will be defeated.
Singh said that of the 37 constituencies in Jammu, some are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes whereas of the 46 constituencies in Kashmir Valley, not a single constituency is reserved for SCs and STs.
Dismissing the plea, a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly had said we are of the opinion that a right to caste vote is a valuable right but to demand any uniform value of ones voting right through the process of delimitation, disregarding the statutory and constitutional dispensation based on historical reasons is not a justiciable right.
National Conference leader and elected Member Parliament, Justice Hasnain Masoodi has said that the exercise would be without legal authority and in gross violation of Constitution and law.
Section 47, Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir provides for readjustment of extent and boundaries of the constituencies in accordance with the law. The Jammu and Kashmir Representation of Peoples Act 1957 (Sec. 3) is the law enacted to govern the matter. The Proviso added to Section 47 of the Constitution by 29th Amendment of 23rd April 2002 has frozen delimitation exercise till the results of first census taken after 2026 are published. Corresponding amendment has been made in Sec 3 in Representation of Peoples Act as well, he said.