A prelude to political process in J&K

With the completion and submission of the much discussed Delimitation Commission report, the trumpet was blown and it paved the way for starting the political process in Jammu Kashmir as the first consequence and eventual assembly polls.

J&K has been under presidential rule since June 19, 2018, following the collapse of a PDP-BJP coalition government.

Many leaders, including home minister Amit Shah, have said that elections would be held in the UT after the completion of the delimitation process.

In the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats was governed by the Indian Constitution, but the delimitation of its Assembly seats was governed separately by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957. Allegations have been often made of discriminatory distribution of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies between Jammu Province and Kashmir valley that tilted the balance of political representation in favour of Kashmir over Jammu’s grudge.

The delimitation exercise is carried out by an independent high-powered panel known as the Delimitation Commission whose orders have the force of law and cannot be questioned by any court.

The exercise has been carried out over the years to redefine the area of a constituency-based on its population size (based on the last Census).

The key aim was to have equal representation to equal segments of the population in order to ensure a fair division of geographical areas so that all political parties or candidates contesting elections have a level playing field in terms of a number of voters.

Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census. Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.

However, the first delimitation exercise was carried out by the President (with the help of the Election Commission) in 1950-51. The Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.

Delimitation Commissions had been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

With the fresh delimitation of constituencies, many discrepancies earlier done to the disadvantage of Jammu Province have been rectified. The reactions of Kashmir centric political parties are obvious as the new Legislative Assembly would have some element of equity though Kashmir valley still enjoys more seats.

The Delimitation Commission is a high-power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called into question before any court, according to the Election Commission of India rules.

With these recommendations submitted, the next process of notification of new constituencies, preparation of new voter lists and other poll preparatory exercises will be set in motion to culminate into announcement for long awaited assembly polls in J&K.

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