Explained: Delimitation Act

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Recently the Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla has appointed 15 members to assist the delimitation committee set up by the government. This committee was formed to re draw the constituencies of union territory Jammu and Kashmir besides the north eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. Since the approval of reorganisation act along with the withdrawal of Article 370 from the constitution was passed by both the houses in August and the state was split into union territory of Laddakh and J&K by October, 2019. So, in February 2020, the government decided to start the process of delimitation of assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir.

In October, 2019 Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 was passed. According to this act the new union territory of the country that is Jammu and Kashmir was going to have an assembly. Besides an increase in the number of assembly seats from 107 to 114 based on the census of year 2011. The government formed a Delimitation committee which will be headed by former SC judge Ranjan Prakash Desai along with Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and state election commissioner of all the 4 states and J&K.

The Delimitation committee has been formed only 4 times since the independence. The first time it was formed in year 1952 followed by year 1963, followed by year 1973 and lastly in year 2002 under the new amended Delimitation Act, 2002. This body was freeze since then and now in year 2020 it has been activated. The main aim of this body is to re size the division of every state and every union territory for the purpose of Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

Why was this act introduced?

A through delimitation would have a significant impact on the balance of power in Lok Sabha, shifting the weight of representation from south to the north. There are two arguments for resisting this change: that it discriminates against states that have successfully carried out family planning programmes, and that it disrupts the federal balance of the country.”

“One person, one vote and one value”- It is very important in democracy to show that no vote has a greater weight than the other votes. And if a country is following the single electorate system it is very essential that the population of each and every constituency should be equal so that the constituency with greater number of population should not affect the decision of constituency with lesser population.

Uneven increase in population- Some states took the population control measures very strictly which helped the state to manage their population while the other who did not witness a great increase in the population. This meant that the states with lesser population had to witness uneven vote distribution which may favour one party in the Lok Sabha election over the other party.

Delimitation act over view

  • Meaning

Delimitation is defined as the process of reallocating the boundaries of constituencies based on the change in the population of the country. This job of delimitation has to be given to a body with high powers and this body is known as delimitation commission or boundary commission.

  • Objective of the Act
  • Readjust the boundaries of every constituency after a regular interval of time.
  • To ensure allocation of the seats in the Lok Sabha and the seats in assembly of every state.
  • To ensure that each and every states and union territory that have a legislative assembly should organise territorial constituency elections.
  • To ensure equal representation to equal division of the population
  • To ensure that the division of area should be geographically fair and no party can take advantage of the same.
  • How is delimitation carried out in India ?
  • As per Article 82 of the Indian Constitution, after every census the government needs to re adjust the boundaries of each constituency. This division should be made keeping in mind the seats of the Lok Sabha and assemblies of states. This Article also states that the new division should in no manner affect the    representation in the house of people.  Also this process shall take affect from the very date as when the order is passed by the president.
  • As per article 170 of the Indian constitution, for the composition of state assembly it is important to maintain certain number of seats in the house and for that purpose each territory is divided into constituencies. This division shall be based on the Delimitation Act.
  • Once this act came into force, since then the central government has the duty to form a delimitation committee.
  • This delimitation committee is formed as per the orders of the president besides the chief election commissioner.
  • This delimitation committee is composed of three members-
  • Retires judge of the supreme court- he is usually the one who heads the committee
  • Chief election commissioner- he is usually the ex officio chairman
  • State assembly election commissioners- they also act as the ex officio chairman of the committee.

Salient features

  • Define nature and area of the constituency- this act helps in defining the nature as well as the area of the constituency which is very important. As it helps to compare the influence of a particular area and it’s inclination towards a particular party and it also helps in defining the primary area and the population that is encompassed in that area.
  • This act is very flexible- our Indian constitution has only defined a certain limits and left everything related to this process unsaid. That is the reason it is very flexible as per the latest population the constituencies would get effected and it might definitely affect the seat allocation from that constituency in Lok Sabha as well as in state assemblies.
  • A regular census- with the help of this act it is ensured that an updated list of the citizens is send which is helpful data that can be used by the government in many factors.

Constitutional provisions regarding the act

  • Provisions and powers of the delimitation commission

As per section 7 of the act there is no specified procedure that the commission needs to follow. They can choose how they wish to work and they possess all the powers according to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. They can appoint any person that they require. And this commission will also act as a civil court for section 345 and 346 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

  • Allocation of seats

As per section 8 when the procedure is made for the allocation of seats in Lok Sabha, the seats for schedule caste and schedule tribe are allocated on the basis of provisions of Article 330 of the constitution and Section 3 of the People’s Representation Act, 1950.

Critical analysis

Firstly, the uneven freeze that is imposed on some of the constituencies. In India one of the issue is that some of the constituencies are sometimes frizzed while other being counted and reallocated irrespective of the fact that the population is still growing in that particular constituency. This leads to the distortion of one of the major principles of democracy that is one vote and one value.

Secondly, there is a lot of difference between work done on paper and work done in reality. Due to uneven distribution of population in different areas of the country it is practically impossible for the government to redistribute the population even in approximately equal proportions.

Thirdly, it is very wrong to allocate the party in the power the right to re measure the population and constituency considering the fact that they may try to influence the votes by crating the division in their own favour.

Conclusion

Between the big democracies of the world, India is also one of the major representatives of the democracy. The word representation here technically means to stand for some other person or to work for someone’s behalf. In the modern world we all usually measure the representation by the way of elections conducted in that country. While some of the democratic countries have opted for the proportional representations, India has opted for territorial representation. Hence for that purpose country is divided into various constituencies.

Now if we want that the method that we have opted for the country to be represented at the world level then it is very important that it should be flawless. It should not be the one where the wordings are absolutely different from the actual workings. And for that purpose it is very important that the delimitation process should not be given in the hands of the public rather it should be given to the public whose votes matter a lot and who can surely figure out the correct way to make their every vote count.

Author: Rupinder Kaur from Symbiosis Law School, Noida.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

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