Fair opportunity for Delimitation Commission-2020 to undo faulty Delimitations done from 1951 to 1995

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Daya Sagar

Although 83 MLA segments out 87 of the Legislative Assembly (LA) of erstwhile J&K State have been retained for the Legislative Assembly of UT of J&K ( comprising of the Jammu and Kashmir regions of the erstwhile J&K State) an additional provision of 7 more MLAs has also been made in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, Act No 34 of August 2019 of Parliament there by increasing the number to 90.In addition to increasing the number of MLAs provision of reservations for Schedule Tribe (ST) has also been made ( Section-14-(3,6&,7). Hence before constituting the first Legislative Assembly of UT of J&K exercise for delimitation of Single Member segments of the LA of UT had become must. So, the exercise for Delimitation of Segments of the Legislative Assembly of UT of J&K has been started with the appointment of a Delimitation Commission in March 2020 headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai. Common of UT of J&K is very hopefully waiting for a fair delimitation order ( atleast after 70 years) of Legislative Assembly Segments.
The only and the first regular order for delimitation of the Legislative Assembly Segments of erstwhile J&K State that was made on 27 April 1995 by a Delimitation Commission that was appointed in 1981 ( SRO No; 537 of 02-12-1981, Justice J.N Wazir was the 1st Chairman and Justice K.K Gupta was the last Chairman) was supposed to have been issued in terms of guidelines as were laid down in J&K Representation of the Peoples Act 1957 (JK RPA of 1957) , Section- 4, Sub Section -2. But to any fair wisdom that too technically appeared unfair to the common man of J&K ( particularly those who are placed in distant& backward areas and more of such areas / people fell in Jammu Region) like was the adhoc delimitation for the segments of the Constituent Assembly of J&K State done in 1951 since that did violate the common man centric guiding principles laid down in JK RPA 1957 which in principle was designed to provide a representative of nearness (MLA) in the Legislative Assembly to a common subject of J&K State.
So, otherwise also before 2019 repeated demands were there for ordering fresh delimitation since 1995 Delimitation of LA Segments had not been that minutely and fairly done on the basis of JK RPA 1957 guidelines like 1. Geographical Compactness/ Area(Jammu nearly 165% of Kashmir valley) 2.Terrain (very bad in Jammu region) 3.Means of communication/ connectivity (road connectivity much -much poor in Jammu Region (in comparison) 4.Population 5.And like Factors. Some people have been saying that the earlier irrational distribution of Assembly Segments ( MLAs) was due to Art-370 and Art-35A which is totally a wrong assertion since the then J&K State too had a very rational and meaningful J&K Representation of the People Act 1957 with clear and simple guidelines for delimitation which were flouted by the delimitation committees / commission under the influence of “leadership” to keep the balance towards Kashmir valley.
No doubt present Delimitation has to be done on the basis of 2011 census where in the Population of Kashmir Valley is more than the population of districts that fall in Jammu Region. But population is only one of the 5 critical parameters for delimitation of LA segments. In must be noted that the Delimitation of the Lok Sabha Segments (MP) is more based on population criteria on state basis that is why for MPs of all states the points kept for one MP vote for President election is same(at present 708 points/MP ) where as the points kept for one MLA vote for President election is different for different states(UP MLA =208 points , J&K MLA =72 points , HP MLA=51points,Sikkim MLA= 7 points ) since there parameters like geographical compactness, terrain, facilities of communication and like matter more since in a way nearness of MLA to common man has to be ensured as far as possible.
No doubt after the passage of the Reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir Act of 2019, Act No.34 of 2019 the J&K RPA of 1957 is not there but the guidelines which are now there for the present Delimitation Commission as per Section-9.1(a) Delimitation Act 2002 and in Sections – 59 & Sub- Section-2 of Section-60 of Act No. 34 of 2019 are in a way also laying similar guiding parameters as were there in J&K RPA of 1957 like all the constituencies shall be single-member constituencies , all constituencies shall, as far as practicable, geographically compact ( surely reference is to area ), regard shall be had to physical features ( surely refers to features like terrain etc),existing boundaries of administrative units ( surely refers to features like nearness to administration need be kept in view ), keep in view facilities of communication ( surely refers to roads in the area );and conveniences to the public (like distances, nearness to administration/ public representative). Population is one of 5 factors & matters more as regards seats reserved for SC&ST{ Sec.-14- (3,&7)} & {Sec.14-(3,6&,7) } of Act 34.
Going by the guiding parameters technically the balance tilts towards areas falling Jammu region since had it not been so in the Constitution of J&K the then Constituent Assembly of J&K ( that had 43 members from Kashmir Region and only 30 from Jammu Region) would not have kept constitutionally in Section-50 of JK Constitution 14 elected Members in the Legislative Council (MLC) for Jammu Region areas as against only 12 elected MLCs for Kashmir region areas. One of the available key indicators for L Assembly delimitation too could be somewhere near to 14:12:: 44-45. So had the Delimitation Commission worked truthfully in 1994-95 surely 45 to 44 MLAs would have been distributed over Jammu Region districts and only 39 to 38 MLAs in Kashmir region districts but the commission had arbitrarily done the exercise in the opposite direction by carrying 1989 draft proposals of Commission when Justice Jalal u Din was the Chairman.
So now it is fair opportunity for present Delimitation Commission to apply the corrections to the allegedly faulty Delimitation order of April1995.
To be continued
(Daya Sagar is a Sr Journalist / Analyst Jammu & Kashmir Affairs [email protected])

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