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Delimitation in J&K - a cumbersome exercise
6/11/2019 11:08:36 PM
Mahadeep Singh Jamwal

For the last few days the J&K state is buzzing with roaring voices in favor and against 'Delimitation' in the state. When we focus towards the State of Jammu and Kashmir, we have separate Constitution as 'The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, 1956' as well as separate 'The Jammu And Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957'. So we are required to look towards 'Delimitation of Assembly seats' through the prism of these 'Acts'. Instead of beating about the bushes and blaming those lying in peace in cemeteries, about the number of seats prior to adoption of the Constitution (spoken that Sheikh Abdullah's administration arbitrarily carved out 30 seats for Jammu region, 43 for Kashmir and 2 for Ladakh region) we should look for correctional measures. Let us take our flight after adoption of the Constitution for J&K. Section 47 (1) of 'The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir,' speaks that the Legislative Assembly shall consist of one hundred members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies in the State. Section 47 (2) provides that for the purposes of sub-section (I), the State shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such a manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it shall, so far as practicable, be the same throughout the State. Section 47 (3) provides that upon the completion of each census, the number, extent and boundaries of the territorial constituencies shall be readjusted by such authority and in such manner as the Legislature may by law determine. Section 48 of J&K Constitution kept reserved twenty-five seats in the Legislative Assembly and that shall remain vacant, until the area of the State under the occupations of Pakistan ceases to so occupy and the people residing in that area elect their representatives. Subsequently the total number of J&K Assembly seats was increased to 111 by the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (Twentieth Amendment) Act of 1988. Of these, 24 seats were kept reserved for the territorial constituencies of the state that were administered by Pakistan in 1947
For delimitation of constituencies, we are bound by the 'The Jammu And Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957', an Act to provide for the delimitation of Constituencies for the purpose of elections to the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. That speaks as soon as may be (after the completion of each census) the Governor shall constitute a Commission to be called the Delimitation Commission. Under the Act, Delimitation Commission was to distribute 87 seats in the Legislative Assembly as per criteria: (I) population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published, (II) geographical compactness, (III) nature of terrain and (IV) facilities of communication. The delimitation was done in 1995 and 37 seats allotted to Jammu region 46 to Kashmir and four went to Ladakh. The notable surprise is that the 87 seats were to be distributed as per population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published. As no census was held in J&K in 1991 (However 77, 18,700 was projected population of J&K in 1991 by 'Standing Committee of Experts on Population Projections' in Oct 1989) so the last census figures of population 1981 comes into play for distribution of these 87 seats. The figures published about this census aware us that Kashmir having population of 31.35 Lakh, Jammu population of 27.18 and Ladakh with population of 1.34 Lakhs. The writer is not aware about it what population was considered by Delimitation Commission' in 1995. The Geographical compactness of Jammu and Kashmir speaks as: Kashmir area 15.948 Sq. Km, Jammu 26.269 Sq. Km and Ladakh 59,146 Sq. Km. Census 1981 also apprise us that Pakistan held Azad Kashmir with 13.297 Sq. Km was having population 19.83 Lakh.
According to seat distribution by Delimitation commission in 1995, the State Assembly elections of 1996 were held and this arrangement is continuing till date. The census were held in 2001 and figures published aware that the J&K was having population 1, 00, 69,917. Another 'Delimitation Commission was mandatory as per 'The Jammu And Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957', in 2005 but by toeing with the decision of central government in 2002 (84th amendment to Indian Constitution) that froze the total Parliamentary and Assembly seats in each state till 2026 (said to be because of family planning program disparity) the popular government in J&K state in 2002 also freeze the 'Delimitation Exercise' till 2026 by an amendment to Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of J&K (much criticized as personal gain of Kashmir based political party in power owing to the reason of more population of Jammu region than Kashmir, more area in Jammu region than Kashmir and both these factors were going to give an edge to Jammu region in redistribution of Assembly seats if delimitation would have been there). The Apex Court denied its interference in this freeze of delimitation (PIL by NPP Supremo) and ruled that courts cannot interfere in matters of delimitation as there was an express Constitutional bar on such interference.
Now we have census figures of 2011 also in hand as published one with population of J&K State as 1,25,41,302 of which male and female are 66,40,662 and 59, 00,640 respectively. Relying on the census 2011, the most populous region is Kashmir followed by Jammu. Here it is to mention that assembly representation is based on population and not on the eligible voters. Census 2011 speaks that Jammu region has a total population of over 53.50 lakh, (43%) and Kashmir has over 69 lakh population (55%) of the total population of the state. Average population per seat in Jammu is 1, 44,594 whereas Kashmir has average of 1, 50,000. The politicians from Jammu have been projecting that the current seat compositions are heavily in favor of Kashmir and is responsible foe ll discrimination towards Jammuites. It is required to be debated on merits rather counting the balloons in the air. Under the scenario, discussed above, we have to conduct an in house assessment, that what are the factors that can contribute towards the Jammuites to get rid of the discrimination from the hands of Kashmir dominated political set up.
With regard to correctional measures in the state, my options are:
n The amendment to Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957 and Section 47(3) of the Constitution of J&K required to be amended to nullify the freeze of delimitation till 2026.
n The Governor of J&K should constitute 'Delimitation Commission' as envisaged in 'The Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act 1957'. The Assembly seats can be redistributed as per 2011 census, the population figures that stand published.
n Wider discrepancies in the size of assembly constituencies required to be done away.
n Out of 24 seats kept vacant for people (as per section 48 of J&K Constitution) from the Pakistan administered area in 1947, require to be revisited as lakhs of people from this area have settled in Jammu region and proportionate seats be included in Jammu region as reserved for this fraternity.
n The migration of lakhs of Kashmiri pundits from valley has settled in Jammu. Their assembly seat quota proportionally after deletion from Kashmir required to be clubbed with Jammu as reserve seats for migrants.
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