Restoring J&K Legislature Govt sets Delimitation ball rolling, CEC names deputy on commission

TNN Bureau. Updated: 2/18/2020 9:45:30 AM Front Page

JAMMU: In a major development, the Centre has set the ball rolling for the delimitation of assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir—a prerequisite for the restoration of the legislature in the region, which is without an elected government for close to two years now.

Well over six months of the reorganisation of erstwhile State into two union territories—Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, the Centre has proposed to constitute the delimitation commission, which will be headed by a retired judge of the supreme court and will have two members—one each from Jammu and Kashmir administration and Election Commission of India (ECI).

The union ministry of Law and Parliamentary affair wrote to both Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu administration and ECI, asking them to nominate their officials to the panel, even as a concurrent process has been initiated to elect the head of the commission, official sources said.

Acting on the Centre’s request, the election commission has nominated Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra to the commission.

“Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora has named Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his nominee for the proposed Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir,” the ECI said on Monday.

“The decision came consequent to the request of Legislative Department of Ministry of Law and Justice, GOI,” Sheyphali Sharan, spokesperson for the ECI disclosed.

Official sources inform that the J&K administration too is expected to name its nominee very soon.

While the setting up of the commission to redraw the assembly constituencies in J&K is first step towards holding assembly elections in the newly constituted Union Territory, the entire process from its commencement to its culmination is likely to take quite long time.

The Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was dissolved by Governor on November 21, 2018. Fresh elections were expected in the erstwhile state within a period of six months, however, they were postponed in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories in August 2019.

Before Parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act in August last year, the effective strength of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was 87 including four seats falling in Ladakh region which is now a separate UT without a legislature.

The J-K Reorganisation Act, 2019 provides for increase of at least seven seats, taking the total number of constituencies to 90 from 83, and these new constituencies will be redrawn from existing constituencies by the means of delimitation.

Delimitation is the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province with a legislative body. It will be only after Delimitation commission completes the task of redrawing the assembly constituencies that the UT will witness its first elections.

In the now dissolved J&K assembly, there were 46 seats from Kashmir, 37 from Jammu, totaling to 83 in the J&K UT. The BJP has asserted time and again, that it would seek to do justice to Jammu region by balancing the distribution of assembly seats.

Some local leaders have even claimed that all seven new seats will be drawn in Jammu region, bringing it close to Kashmir’s tally.

"...the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir shall be increased from 107 to 114, and delimitation of the constituencies may be determined by the Election Commission in the manner hereinafter provided," according to the Act.

Twenty-four seats of the Assembly continue to remain vacant as they fall under Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Official sources confirmed that the total population of J&K UT would be divided over the total number of assembly seats to get an average number of electors per constituency. The boundaries of the constituencies would then be drawn while ensuring that administrative units are not split as far as possible.

BJP’S national general secretary Ram Madhav had said last year that the delimitation would be taken up soon after the formation of the committee for the purpose by the ministry of home affairs.

While the reorganisation act specifies that delimitation will be based on the 2011 census till 2026, there have been demands from various quarters that the delimitation is done basis fresh census of 2021, which would further push off the process.

Experts believe that once commenced, the delimitation process would take over an year to complete.

J&K itself has not seen a delimitation exercise since 1995. There was a wide demand in Jammu region to undertake exercise for delimitation of assembly constituencies as Jammu has more population and vast area of constituencies of the region as compared to Kashmir.

In 2002, the then NC government had amended J&K Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section

47(3) of the Constitution of J&K, freezing delimitation of the then state’s constituencies.

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