The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation report
- After multiple objections and extensions, the J&K Delimitation Commission submitted its final report on May 5, 2022, two years after it was appointed to redraw the electoral boundaries in Jammu and Kashmir as per the mandate set by the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
- In its order, the three-member panel carved out additional six Assembly seats for the Jammu region and one for the Kashmir valley as per the Act.
- The final order of the Commission has set the stage for elections in the erstwhile State that last held Assembly polls in 2014.
What is delimitation?
- Delimitation is the process of redrawing boundaries of the Lok Sabha or Assembly constituencies, the Election Commission of India states.
- The process is carried out in accordance with changes in the demographic status of a State or Union Territory.
- Delimitation is done by a Delimitation Commission or Boundary Commission.
- The orders of the independent body cannot be questioned before any court.
- In the past, Delimitation Commissions were set up in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002.
- Before the abrogation of Article 370 that accorded a special status to J&K, delimitation of its Assembly seats was carried out by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
- The delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies, meanwhile, was governed by the Constitution.
What is the J&K Delimitation Commission?
- Last delimitation exercise was carried out in Jammu and Kashmir in 1995, based on the 1981 Census. Jammu and Kashmir were under President’s rule at that time.
- There was no Census in 1991 in J&K due to the tense situation in the valley.
- In 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a law to put the delimitation process on hold till 2026.
- The Centre set up a Delimitation Commission in March 2020, six months after the State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated and reorganised as the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
- It was headed by retired SC judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, who was tasked with delimiting the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the UT of J&K based on the 2011 Census and in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 and the Delimitation Act, 2002.
Key takeaways from the final report
- Legislative Assembly: The Commission has increased seven Assembly seats — six in Jammu (now 43 seats) and one in Kashmir (now 47).
- It has also made massive changes in the structure of the existing Assembly seats.
- Lok Sabha: There are five Parliamentary Constituencies in the region. The Delimitation Commission has seen the Jammu & Kashmir region as one single Union Territory.
- The Commission has redrawn the boundaries of Anantnag and Jammu seats.
- Jammu’s Pir Panjal region, comprising Poonch and Rajouri districts and formerly part of the Jammu parliamentary seat, has now been added to the Anantnag seat in Kashmir.
- Also, a Shia-dominated region of the Srinagar parliamentary constituency has been transferred to the Baramulla constituency.
- Kashmiri Pandits: The Commission has recommended the provision of at least two members from the community of Kashmiri Migrants (Kashmiri Hindus) in the Legislative Assembly.
- It has also recommended that the Centre should consider giving representation in the J&K Legislative Assembly to the displaced persons from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who migrated to Jammu after Partition.
- Scheduled Tribes: A total of nine seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes for the first time.
Criticism of the Commission?
- Regional political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, except BJP, have slammed the Commission for acting as an “extension of the BJP”.
- Constituency boundaries are being redrawn only in J&K when delimitation for the rest of the country has been frozen until 2026.
- In 2002, the then J&K government amended the J&K Representation of the People Act to freeze the delimitation exercise until 2026, as in the rest of the country.
- This was challenged in the J&K High Court and then the Supreme Court, both of which upheld the freeze.
- Also, while delimitation, as a rule, is carried out on the basis of Census population, the Commission said it would take certain other factors into consideration for J&K, including size, remoteness and closeness to the border.
What lies ahead?
- The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir has issued a notification of its final order in the Gazette of India. As per rules, the report has been published in newspapers.
- The Centre will now fix a date from which the delimitation order will come into effect.
- Chief Election Commissioner has told that the EC will then rationalise the polling stations and revise the electoral rolls.
- This will pave the way for the much-awaited first Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir after being stripped of its special status in 2019.
Prelims take away
- Delimitation Commission
- Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019
- Election Commission