Purpose Of Delimitation To Give Immediate Democracy To J&K: Centre To SC

SRINAGAR: The delimitation process of Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir could not have been put on hold till 2026 as the idea was “to give immediate democracy” to the Union Territory, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday, Live Law reported.

“The last delimitation had taken place in 1995,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench of Justices SK Kaul and AS Oka. “…To wait till 2026 was legislatively found to be unwise.”

The bench was hearing a petition filed by two Srinagar residents – Haji Abdul Gani Khan and Mohammad Ayub Mattoo. The petitioners contended that according to a letter issued by the Delimitation Commission in July 2004, the number of existing Assembly seats of all states and Union Territories cannot not be changed till the first Census is conducted after 2026.

They have also argued that under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, the Election Commission was the only body empowered to conduct the delimitation exercise.

In February 2020, the Union government had started the delimitation process – or redrawing boundaries – of Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. On May 5, the number of Assembly seats was increased from 83 to 90 in the final delimitation order.

Of the seven new seats, one was given to Kashmir, taking its total to 46, and six were given to Jammu, which now has 43 seats.

While it is a routine effort in some parts of the country, the delimitation process is much more politically sensitive in Jammu and Kashmir because of fears that the Bharatiya Janata Party may use it to alter political outcomes in what was earlier India’s only Muslim-majority state.

At Thursday’s hearing, Mehta told the court that the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 gives the power to carry out a delimitation exercise to the commission, reported The Indian Express.

“By virtue of Sections 60-61 [of the 2019 Act], while the power to determine delimitation is conferred on Election Commission, Section 62(2) and 62(3) confers powers to carry out delimitation on the Delimitation Commission constituted under Section 3 of Delimitation Act,” he said.

Mehta also told the court that all procedural compliances were met while carrying out the exercise, reported the Hindustan Times. “The first delimitation is to be done by the delimitation commission and then it can be done by Election Commission,” he added.

The court has reserved its verdict on the matter.

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