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Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • New office premises for Delimitation Commission was opened recently, and it is hoped that formal deliberations with Associate Members would start soon to expedite the process of delimitation as envisaged.
  • The Commission has kept 15th June 2020 as the date for freezing of administrative districts in these States/ UTs. Data collection work has also been completed.

Delimitation Commission

  • The Delimitation commission (or Boundary commission) of India is a commission established by the Government of India under the provisions of the Delimitation Commission Act.
  • Hence, Delimitation Commission is a Statutory Body, based on Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.
  • Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

Important Points about the Delimitation Commission:

  • The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
  • The main task of the commission is redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census.
  • The representation from each State is NOT CHANGED during this exercise.
  • However, the number of SC and ST seats in a state are changed in accordance with the census.
  • The present delimitation of constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 census under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002.
  • The Commission is a powerful and independent body whose orders cannot be challenged in any court of law.
  • The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the respective State Legislative Assemblies. However, modifications are NOT permitted.

Present Delimitation Commission of 2002

  • In 2008, the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) decided to implement the order from the Delimitation Commission.
  • All future elections in India for states covered by the commission will be held under the newly formed constituencies.
  • The present delimitation of parliamentary constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 census figures under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002.
  • However, the Constitution of India was specifically amended in 2002 not to have delimitation of constituencies till the first census after 2026.

Thus, the present constituencies carved out on the basis of 2001 census shall continue to be in operation till the first census after 2026.

Composition of Delimitation Commission

  1. Retired Supreme Court judge
  2. Chief Election Commissioner
  3. Respective State Election Commissioners

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

What is Delimitation?

Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body.

Delimitation is necessary in order to:

  1. Provide equal representation to equal segments of a population,
  2. Enabling fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election, and
  3. Follow the principle of “One Vote One Value”.

Constitutional Provisions on Delimitation

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census. Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  • According to Article 81 of the Constitution — as it stood before the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 — the Lok Sabha was to comprise of not more than 550 members.
  • Clause (2) of Article 81 provided that the number of seats in the House of the People that shall be allotted to each State – are in such manner that the ratio between the number if seats and the population of the State is, so far as practicable, the same for all States.
  • Further, clause (3) defined the expression “population” for the purposes of Article 81 to mean the population as ascertained at the last preceding Census of which the relevant figures have been published.

Suspension of Delimitation

  • The union government had suspended delimitation in 1976 until after the 2001 census so that states’ family planning programs would not affect their political representation in the Lok Sabha.
  • States which took a lead in population control faced the prospect of their number of seats getting reduced and States which had higher population figures stood to gain by increase in the number of seats in Lok Sabha.
  • To allay this apprehension, through Forty-second Amendment the government froze the total Parliamentary and Assembly seats in each state till 2001 Census.
  • This was done mainly due to wide discrepancies in family planning among the states and thus giving time to states with higher fertility rates to implement family planning to bring the fertility rates down.
  • The constitution was again amended (84th amendment to Indian Constitution) in 2002 to continue the freeze on total number of seats in each state till 2026.

New Numbers:

  • When the first Census figure will be available after 2026 — that is, in 2031 — a fresh delimitation will have to done which will dramatically alter the present arrangement of seat allocation to the States in Parliament.
  • We might need a new building for Parliament altogether due to the likely increase in number of seats in both Houses after the lifting of the freeze imposed by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976, which is due in 2026.
November 2023