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Why constitutional validity of J&K reorganisation act cause went unchallenged: SC

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

 

Source: TH

 Direction: The article highlights the process of delimitation and discusses the controversy around the delimitation of UT of J&K.

  

Context: The Supreme Court questioned petitioners on why they did not challenge the constitutionality of a specific provision in the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019.

 

Background:

  • In 2019, the State of J&K lost its special status and was divided into two UTs – J&K and Ladakh, after the revocation of Article 370.
  • The J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, confers the Delimitation Commission power to carry out the re-adjustment of constituencies in the UT of J&K.
  • Because Ladakh was created as a separate UT, J&K was reduced to 107 seats. The Reorganisation Act increased the number to 114, bringing the effective strength of the assembly to 90, omitting the 24 seats allotted for PoK.

  

 

About delimitation:

  • It is the act of redrawing the boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha constituency to reflect changes in population over time, based on the latest Census data so that the population of all seats is as uniform as possible across the state.
  • Apart from modifying the boundaries, the process may also alter the number of seats in a state.
  • Article 82 of the Indian Constitution: Following each census, the allocation of Lok Sabha seats to the states, as well as the division of each state into territorial constituencies, shall be readjusted by such authority as Parliament may by law determine.

 

Delimitation Commission:

  • Delimitation is the responsibility of the Delimitation Commission or a Boundary Commission, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be challenged in court.
  • Article 82 provides for the establishment of such a commission through an act of
  • The orders will take into effect on a date to be determined by India’s President.

  

The SC’s assertion:

  • The petitions challenged the notification issued by the Centre establishing the J&K Delimitation Commission and extending its term for the purpose of conducting delimitation only for J&K.
  • The notifications drew their power specifically from Section 62(2) of the 2019 Act, which provides for the readjustment of constituencies to be carried out by the Delimitation Commission.
  • Why did the petitioners without challenging the source of the government’s notifications – Section 62(2), had confined their challenge solely to the notifications?

 

The petitioners’ argument:

  • Only the Election Commission of India (ECI), under Section 60 of the 2019 Act, was empowered to conduct the delimitation exercise.
  • Article 170 of the Constitution barred delimitation exercise on the basis of the 2011 census. It had to either be on the basis of the 2001 census or the first census after 2026.
  • Sections 60 and 61 of the 2019 Act contradict Section 62.
  • Why J&K was “singled out” for delimitation in the 2021 notification? The earlier notification (2020) constituted the Delimitation Commission for the delimitation of UT of J&K as well as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
  • If the 2019 Act was to unite J&K with India, the delimitation process had defeated the purpose of “One Nation One Constitution”.

 

The government’s counter:

  • There were two alternative mechanisms to carry out delimitation for the UT of J&K.
  • By virtue of Sections 60 & 61, where the power to determine delimitation was conferred on the ECI, Sections 62(2) and 62(3) conferred the powers to carry out delimitation to the Delimitation Commission.
  • The Home Ministry and the ECI argued that the delimitation order had already acquired the “force of law,” and it can’t be questioned in a court of law.

 

Insta Links:

‘Voter islands’ after J&K delimitation exercise

 

Mains Links:

Q. What is delimitation? Examine its objectives and how delimitation affects the representation of the people act. (250 words)