Asymmetrical representation in Parliament: Suggestions for Delimitation
Recently, a paper released by the Pranab Mukherjee Foundation (PMF) suggested that the next delimitation exercise should be based on the 2031 Census.
1 .Explain the process of delimitation in India. What are the challenges that may arise after delimitation in 2031?
● It is redrawing boundaries of an assembly or Lok Sabha constituency. It is done to reflect the demographic changes in a state, Union Territory or at the national level.
● In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number of seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change. The main objective of delimitation is to provide equal representation to equal segments of a population. It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
● Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission.The Constitution mandates that its orders are final and cannot be questioned before any court of law. Even Parliament cannot suggest modifications to an order issued by the commission.
● At the national level, four Delimitation Commissions have been constituted to date for delineating fresh boundaries of the constituencies and suggesting the number of constituencies.
Process of delimitation in India:
● Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
● Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per the Delimitation Act after every Census.
● Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission made up of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
● The Commission is supposed to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats, so far as practicable, is the same.
➢ The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
● All this is done based on the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
● The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published in the Gazette of India, official gazettes of the states concerned and at least two vernacular papers for public feedback.
● The Commission also holds public sittings. After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions, received in writing or orally during public sittings, and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
● The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
Challenge may arise after delimitation in 2031:
● The concerns expressed by the States in 1976 which necessitated the freezing of seat allocation based on 1971 population figures would appear to hold good even today and have to be addressed to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
● The sudden increase in numbers will render the task of the Presiding Officers of the Houses/Legislatures more difficult and onerous.
● The Zero Hour, Question Hour and the raising matters of urgent public importance will be subjected to severe strain because the 60-odd minutes which are available in the morning before the normal legislative business of the House begins will require our Parliament and Legislatures to sit for a longer duration each day during the session as well as have more number of sittings in a year than at present.
According to the 2011 Census, the population of our country stands at 121 crores. Basing the 1971 Census figure of 54.81 crores to represent today’s population presents a distorted version of our democratic polity. There is a need for debate and discussion in parliament to correct asymmetrical representationin parliament and the state legislature.