Monday, April 01, 2013

The Limits of Delimitation

1952, 1962, 1973, 2002, 2026...

Is there anything odd about this sequence?

For India, the mismatch in the last two years point to a fundamental problem -- an issue that has been postponed until another generation picks up the courage to resolve it.

The problem we examine here is that of "proportional representation" - the very basis of electoral politics in India.

The lower house of our parliament, the Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election on the basis of the adult suffrage. The maximum strength of the House envisaged by the Constitution is 552, which is made up by election of up to 530 members to represent the States, up to 20 members to represent the Union Territories. The total elective membership is distributed among the States in such a way that the ratio between the number of seats allotted to each State and the population of the State is, so far as practicable, the same for all States.

Over the years, we have come far from the 'as far as practicable' scenario. Many states which have taken the trouble to improve healthcare and to control their population growth, are finding that they have been robbed of the power of numbers.

Under Article 82 of constitution, Parliament is required to enact a Delimitation Commission after every Census. The motive behind this act was to ensure that there is not much disparity in the population of different constituencies whether in Lok Sabha or in the state assemblies. Delimitation Commissions were set up in 1952, 1962 and 1973. During Emergency in 1976, the constitution was amended to not have delimitation till after 2001 census. The idea was to prevent disincentives for states which have managed to have some degree of population control.

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.

Until then, should we keep our fingers crossed, and hope that the BIMARU states which are now in the midst of an economic resurgence will, somehow or the other, also manage to bring down their population?


* What is Delimitation? (part-1-3) -

* Press Note (17 Aug., 2007) -
. the Commission has already issued final notifications in respect of 25 States.
. The work in three States, namely, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh and Nagaland has been stayed by the Guwahati High Court in Writ Petitions pending before the High Court. The appeal of the Union of India in respect of Manipur State is pending in the Supreme Court. In all these court cases the legality of the 2001 census has been challenged.
. The net result is that except the four above-mentioned, North-Eastern States, the delimitation process has been completed in all respects for 3726 Assembly Constituencies and 513 Lok Sabha Constituencies in rest of the country.
. Articles 82 and 170 (3) of the Constitution of India stipulate that the readjustment of Constituencies shall take effect from such date as the President, may by order, specify.

* Delimitation Commission of India - FAQs -



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