Delimitation: Kashmiris believe they are ring-fenced legally

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New Delhi, June 5 (IANS) With Kashmir Valley in a tizzy over the increasing buzz over the likelihood of setting up of a Delimitation Commission to arrest the regional disparity between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh divisions, several postulates are being firmed up.

Many Kashmiris believe that legally they are secure and ring-fenced due to the freeze on delimitation as it applies to J&K. However, President’s Rule invalidates this argument for the Governor has the power to overturn it.

While detractors say that this freeze was only brought in to bring the state at par with the rest of the country, in reality during President’s Rule, the legislative authority is vested in the Governor. The last delimitation on provisional basis was done in 1993 by Governor Jagmohan when J&K was divided into 87 Assembly constituencies.

The Governor is competent to amend section 47 of the Constitution to delete the objectionable proviso which barred the setting up of a Delimitation Commission. Furthermore, Section 3 of the Representation of People Act gives the Governor the mandate to constitute a Delimitation Commission.

J&K has the powers to revoke the law through a Constitutional Amendment with a two-thirds majority and ramp up the number of seats. If the Governor sets up a Delimitation Commission, then the ball will start rolling. By fast tracking it before the elections, some sort of common ground could be found.

The Ministry of Home Affairs data shows the skew in favour of Jammu division in terms of population with less number of corresponding assembly seats: Kashmir Valley (area: 8,639 sq. miles), population: 53,50,811 (2011 Census); Jammu (area: 12,378 sq miles), population; 69,07,623; Ladakh region (area: 33,554 sq miles), population: 2,90,492. Total area: 54,571 sq miles, population: 1,25,48,926.

What worries the Jammu division more is that Kashmir Valley has witnessed double number of births annually since Census 2001. Fertility Tables published by Census 2011 indicated that there were 85,157 live births in the Valley in the year preceding Census 2001, and that the number has risen to 1,76,673 in 2011.

“This abrupt rise is restricted only to births in the Valley. In Jammu region, number of births has increased by only 19.3 percent, which is somewhat less than the rise in population of that region. In Ladakh, number of births has declined by nearly a third,” according to an analysis report released by Chennai-based Centre for Policy Studies.

Meanwhile, the citizenry in the Valley remains opposed to the idea or its revisit on the following points:

* Article 82 and Article 170 of the Constitution were amended by the Constitution (Eighty-fourth Amendment) Act 2001 to freeze the delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies respectively, throughout India, until the first census is taken after the year 2026.

* Thereafter, in order to synchronize the delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K with this amendment to the Constitution, the J&K Legislature also amended Section 47(3) of the Constitution of J&K through the Constitution of J&K (Twenty-ninth Amendment) Act 2002 and provided that the delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K shall also be frozen until the first census is taken after the year 2026.

* This exercise by the J&K Legislature was aimed at synchronizing the delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K with the rest of the country.

* Bhim Singh challenged this freeze on the ground that it is discriminatory against Jammu. The Division Bench of J&K High Court rejected the challenge by a reasoned judgement.

* Thereafter, Singh appealed the Supreme Court. Finally, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India also dismissed his challenge to this amendment to the J&K Constitution by a reasoned judgement. The Supreme Court decision is titled National Panthers Party v Union of India (2011).

* It appears that any de novo delimitation of Assembly constituencies in J&K now in 2019 would be a deviation from the delimitation freeze applicable all over the country under the Constitution of India.

–IANS

vd/prs

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