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About Delimitation of Constituencies

Context:

Many politicians of the Southern States are raising voices over Delimitation of constituencies based on population, which they consider to be unfair.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Delimitation?
  2. What is the Delimitation Commission?
  3. Concerns Related to Delimitation

What is Delimitation?

  • Delimitation is the process of defining the boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or province with a legislative body.
  • Delimitation for Lok Sabha (LS) and Legislative Assembly (LA) differs from that of local bodies.
  • The Delimitation Commission Act was passed in 1952.
  • The President of India appoints the Delimitation Commission, which works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • Delimitation Commissions have been established four times: in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002, under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972, and 2002.
Previous Delimitation Exercises:
  • The first delimitation exercise was conducted by the President, with the assistance of the Election Commission, in 1950-51.
  • The most recent delimitation exercise that affected the composition of the Lok Sabha by states was completed in 1976, based on the 1971 census.
Objective and Impact:
  • The Constitution of India mandates that seat allocation in the Lok Sabha should be based on each state’s population, ensuring a close ratio of seats to population across states.
  • This provision aimed to ensure that each person’s vote carries a similar weight, regardless of their state of residence.
  • However, it led to states with low population control having a higher number of seats in Parliament.
  • To address this, the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 froze seat allocation in the Lok Sabha and division of constituencies at the 1971 level until 2000.
  • The 84th Amendment Act of 2001 empowered the government to readjust and rationalize constituencies based on the population figures of the 1991 census.
  • The 87th Amendment Act of 2003 allowed delimitation of constituencies based on the 2001 census instead of the 1991 census.
  • However, this can be done without altering the number of seats allotted to each state in the Lok Sabha.
Objectives of Delimitation:
  • To ensure equal representation for equal segments of the population.
  • To achieve a fair division of geographical areas, preventing any political party from gaining an advantage in elections.
  • To uphold the principle of “One Vote One Value.”
Legal Provisions:
  • Article 82 of the Constitution empowers the Parliament to enact a Delimitation Act after each Census.
  • Article 170 provides for the division of states into territorial constituencies based on the Delimitation Act after each Census.

What is the Delimitation Commission?

  • The Delimitation Commission is a high-power body responsible for determining the number and boundaries of constituencies in India.
  • It is appointed by the President of India and collaborates with the Election Commission of India.
  • The Commission consists of:
    • Retired Supreme Court judge
    • Chief Election Commissioner
    • Respective State Election Commissioners
Responsibilities of the Delimitation Commission:
  • To ensure the population of all constituencies is nearly equal by determining the number and boundaries of constituencies.
  • To identify and allocate seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, particularly in areas where their population is relatively large.

Decision-making within the Commission:

  • In case of a difference of opinion among the members of the Commission, the majority opinion prevails.

Authority and Legal Status of the Delimitation Commission:

  • The Delimitation Commission in India is a high-power body, and its orders have the force of law.
  • The decisions and orders of the Commission cannot be challenged or questioned before any court.

Concerns Related to Delimitation:

Disparity in Representation:

  • Delimitation based solely on population can lead to disparities in representation between the northern and southern parts of India in the Lok Sabha.
  • The southern states have made significant progress in population control but may still be disadvantaged due to their lower population compared to the northern states.

Disregarding Progress in Population Control:

  • Delimitation solely based on population may disregard the progress made by southern states in controlling their population.
  • This could result in a skewed federal structure, as the southern states contribute significantly to the country’s GDP despite having a smaller population (18% of the country’s population but 35% of the GDP).

Financial Implications:

  • The use of the 2011 Census as the basis for funding and tax devolution recommendations by the 15th Finance Commission raised concerns about southern states potentially losing funding and representation in parliament.
  • Previously, the 1971 Census was used as the base for such recommendations.

Shift in Power:

  • The scheduled delimitation and reallocation of seats may lead to a loss of seats for southern states and potentially increase the political power of parties with their support base in the northern states.
  • This could result in a shift of power away from the southern states and toward the northern states.

Impact on Reserved Seats:

  • The delimitation exercise will also affect the division of seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) in each state, as governed by Articles 330 and 332 of the Constitution.

Source: The Hindu


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