SRINAGAR: The Peoples Conference has told the Commission that it must be fair in “identifying” the constituencies and not “invent” them. Insisting that the overall 90 seats of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly should be decided on basis of the population, the party has asked the Commission to do away with “fief” constituencies.
PC delegation was led by former law secretary, Mohammad Ashraf Mir and he was accompanied by Khursheed Alam, Pir Mansoor and Bashir Ahmad Dar.
The party released its memorandum that it submitted to the three-member Commission for the media. Here the memorandum is reduced completely:
“Kindly refer your communication No. 67/CEO/Estt./2021/2095 Dated 02-07-2021 regarding the visit of the Delimitation Commission to J&K wherein different political parties have been asked to attend the scheduled meetings of the Commission and submit written memorandum if they so choose. The Jammu & Kashmir Peoples’ Conference believes that it should meaningfully cooperate and contribute in the delimitation exercise being undertaken by the Delimitation Commission constituted for purposes of delimiting the Assembly Constituencies of Jammu & Kashmir. For this purpose, the Party is pleased to submit this memorandum for consideration and attention of the Commission with the hope that the submissions made hereunder would be given due regard by the Commission while delimiting and redrawing the boundaries of the Assembly Constituencies.
- The constitution of this Delimitation Commission has a special context so far as J&K is concerned. It came to be constituted after the political upheaval of 5th August, 2019. We are afraid that the commission has an onerous task given the context of 5 August. The commission is visiting a population, which has been targeted by truths, half truths, rumors and is extremely apprehensive and insecure. This is true for the people of J and K in general and specifically for the people of the Kashmir region, the feeling is more intense. The narrative being peddled is that while in the whole country delimitation exercises have been put on hold until the latest census exercises are carried out, J and K has been singled out and a delimitation process has been started on the basis of 2011 census figures. The rumor mills are in fact in a heightened state of frenzy suggesting that the whole exercise is being carried out to disempower peoples of a particular region. Though the Jammu & Kashmir Peoples’ Conference does not believe in such unsubstantiated and hypothetical narratives and has full faith in this Constitutional Body, yet the Party feels that there should be abundant transparency, noticeable impartiality and perceptible fairness on the part of the Delimitation Commission as regards the processes, methodology and principles employed in delimiting the Assembly constituencies so that the exercise receives due appreciation and approval from all and sundry. It is an unenvious exercise. The commission has not only to conduct the delimitation exercise in a fair and unbiased manner but more importantly be seen as being fair and unbiased. While the current set of rumors is based on the present context J&K Peoples Conference wants to put on record previous instances of delimitation, which cannot be held up as exercises in good faith. Blatant cut and paste has been the rule in the past not the exception.
- The last time delimitation exercise was undertaken by the Jammu & Kashmir Delimitation Commission in the year 1995 when the Commission vide Notification dated 27-04-1995 determined 87 territorial constituencies (including 4 now falling in the Union Territory of Ladakh) into which the State was divided and the extent of each such constituency was determined. This 1995 Order was amended by Section 14(5) of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 and substituted by the Third Scheduled to the Reorganization Act. However, in effect, no substantive changes were made to the 1995 Order.
- By virtue of Section 60 of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, the seats in the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly were increased from 107 to 114. After deducting 24 seats, which are not to be taken into account for reckoning the total membership of the Assembly and have to be excluded in delimiting the territorial constituencies in terms of Section 14(4) of the Reorganization Act, the effective strength of J&K Assembly and the number of seats to be determined by the Commission is 90.
- In terms of The Delimitation Act, 2002 read with Section 62 of the Reorganization Act, the Delimitation Commission has to delimit these 90 Assembly constituencies on the basis of the census figures as ascertained, at the census held in the year 2011 and while delimiting them, regard shall be had to the geographical compactness, physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience.
- Keeping in view the provisions of the Constitution and the Delimitation Act, 2002, the following mode and methodology has been adopted by the Delimitation Commissions so far all over the country: –
(i) Each constituency in a State is so delimited that the population of all constituencies is, so far as practicable, the same throughout the State.
(ii) For this purpose, the total population of the State is divided by the total number of assembly constituencies in the State and the State average per assembly constituency is thus obtained.
This State average becomes the guiding factor for delimiting the constituencies in such a manner that each constituency, so far as practicable, has an equal population.
(iii) All assembly constituencies in a district are confined within the territorial limits of that district so that no Assembly constituency ordinarily extends to more than one district.
(iv) While delimiting the constituencies, the first step taken by the Commission is to allocate the number of Assembly constituencies to each district on the basis of the total population of that district divided by the average population per constituency as worked out under sub-paragraph
(ii) above. Where the entitlement of a district on the basis of such State average contains a fraction, the fractions more than one-half is counted as one and fractions less than one-half is ignored.
(v) As a next step, the average population in each constituency in the district is worked out by dividing the total population of the district with the number of seats allocated to that district. Then, the areas of the district are divided into the requisite number of assembly constituencies having regard to the average population per constituency in the district with a permissible deviation of 10 percent plus or minus from the district average if the geographical features, means of communication, public convenience, contiguity of the areas and necessity to avoid breaking of administrative units so demand.
- The Jammu & Kashmir Peoples’ Conference believes that the Delimitation Commission would adopt the time tested procedure and principles for determining 90 seats for the J&K Assembly and the exercise just, fair and transparent so that there is no possibility of any sort of discrimination or injustice or perception thereof among different regions of J&K or with a particular region.
- As per 2011 census, the total population of Jammu and Kashmir is 1, 22, 67, 013, out of which 68, 88, 475 are in Kashmir Division comprising of 10 districts while as 53, 78, 538 are in Jammu Division comprising of another 10 districts.
- By dividing the total population of J&K by the total number of 90 seats, the State average per Assembly constituency would be 1, 36, 300 people.
- The J&K Peoples’ Conference demands that the Assembly constituencies should be delimited and extent of all 90 constituencies determined in such a way that the population of all constituencies is, so far as practicable, the same throughout J&K. This purpose can be achieved only by adhering to the Average Population principle for each and every constituency, i.e, 1,36,300 people.
- There is no denying that various areas in J&K are hilly with difficult terrain and topography, insufficient means of communication, public convenience and lack of contiguity which demand deviation from average population up to the permissibility limit. However, since such areas spread across J&K, the deviation has to be permitted at district average level so that the representation of other districts is not affected.
- Though delimitation is conducted on the basis of population, voter strength is a reliable indicator of population. In the current assembly there are glaring deviations from the average figure worked out by dividing the total population or electors by 87 seats. Ironically these deviations are seen more in urban areas where there is no justification or scope to have smaller constituencies even when one applies the non-population criteria. So you have a situation where you have a constituency in the heart of urban centers in both the regions with fifty odd thousand electors. While in rural based geographically marooned, hilly areas, scattered over kilometers, constituencies are based on electors in excess of 100000 votes. That is a difference of 50 % and and the other way out. Rural settings could provide some justification for smaller constituencies.
What justification can one possibly have for a tiny constituency in city settings. This “fief problem” is what we believe the commission should rectify. Electorally expedient fiefs should be done away with.
- May we make a humble plea that the commission could be doing historical work in restoring the trust of the people of the J & K if it remedies mismatches as shown above. Population will have to be the main reference point. We once again reiterate our faith in the commission that it will remove mismatches, it will not create mismatches. We hope the commission will identify and carve out constituencies based on parameters approximately 90% of which shall be determined by the population. In a break from the past we hope and sincerely hope the commission will identify constituencies and not try to invent them.
With the hope that the submissions made herein above in this memorandum would be give due consideration and thought, the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Conference would like to thank the Delimitation Commission for having been given the opportunity to present its views/ suggestions regarding the delimitation exercise being done by the Commission and is sure enough that this solemn duty shall be discharged by the Commission in most transparent, fair and equitable manner which would ultimately go a long way in firming the trust and belief of the people of J&K in democracy and democratic institutions.”