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News: Recently, the fifth delimitation commission chaired by Justice Ranjana Desai, furnished its award for Jammu and Kashmir. The Commission’s award has been severely criticized across the field.
Nature of Award of the Delimitation Commission
The recommendation of delimitation commissions cannot be modified or changed by Parliament or the concerned legislative assembly.
– The Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu division has been clubbed with Anantnag in the Kashmir division
– The Commission has allocated 47 seats to Kashmir and 43 seats to Jammu.
– The Commission recommended “at least” two seats on a nomination basis for the Kashmiri Pandit community.
What has been good in the commission’s award?
The constituencies have been made coterminous with the district boundaries. Hitherto, 18 assembly constituencies were grouped into each parliamentary constituency. This arithmetic formula distorted the entire system of democratic representation across areas.
What are the issues with the awards given by the fifth delimitation commission?
First, it was constituted during a statutory freeze on the increase or decrease of the parliamentary and legislative assembly seats up till the population Census of 2026.
Second, this is the only commission that has not redrawn the constituencies in accordance with the Delimitation Act of 2002. The commission instead invoked Section 63 of the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, which stipulated to increase the number of seats from present 83 to 90.
Third, the Commission was given the delimitation mandate for five states, but the mandate of five north-eastern states were withdrawn from its purview and its mandate was restricted to only Jammu & Kashmir (UT). Finally, it will be the first delimitation award in the country’s legislative history that will not be placed before the legislative assembly of the UT that has been delimited. The elected legislators of J&K will not have the opportunity to approve the rules for their representation.
Fourth, It is argued that the commission’s award can lead the political binary of Jammu vis a vis Kashmir to become a divisive bipolarity.
Fifth, Kashmir division having a 56% share of the population will have only a 52% seat share. On the other hand, Jammu division with a 44% share in the population gets a 48% share in the legislative representation. Jammu has got an additional seat. In the process, the cardinal principle of “one man, one vote” has been bid adieu in J&K.
Sixth, the seats allocated to sub-regions referred in Section 60(2) (b) of the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019 are unacceptably distortionary. There are four distinct regions: The Jhelum Valley (which includes South Kashmir, Central Kashmir and North Kashmir), Chenab Valley (comprising Kisthwar, Doda, Ramban and Reasi), Pir Panjal (Rajouri and Poonch), and the Tawi basin or the plains (of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur). These areas include “communities of interest” — common physical features, ethnicity, religion, and language.
Seventh. While the two administrative divisions of the UT, Jammu and Kashmir, may be relevant for developmental policy planning, these are not so for democratic representation purposes.
Eight, the framework of legislative representation proposed by the commission will prevent the formation of a stable elected government in J&K in the near future. The elections will lead to formation of fractious patchwork coalition and at worst a perpetually hung assembly.
Ninth, the award can become a precedent for award of other delimitation commissions across other states.
Source: The post is based on an article “Delimitation Commission fails people of J&K, hurts democracy” published in the Indian Express on 07th May 2022.