What is Delimitation?
- Delimitation is the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body.
- Such a body is known as the Delimitation Commission or a Boundary Commission.
- Delimitation Commission in India is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.
- The copies of its orders are laid before the House of the People and the State Legislative Assembly concerned, but no modifications are permissible therein by them.
How often has delimitation been done in the past?
- In India, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times – 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
- There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses because 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.
- This freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies was postponed until 2026 by another amendment.
- So, the last delimitation exercise was based on the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of reserved seats (without changing the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies).
Delimitation Commission Members:
The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
- A retired judge of the Supreme Court
- The Chief Election Commissioner
- State Election Commissioners (of the respective states)
What are the constitutional provisions?
- Article 82 – the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
- Article 170– States get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.
- Once the Act is in force, the Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India which works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
- To determine the number and boundaries of constituencies in such a manner that the population of all seats is almost equal.
- Identifies the seats to be reserved for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes communities, in areas where their population is quite large.
- In case of differing opinions, then the opinion of the majority is taken under consideration.
- Releases draft proposals to the public through the Gazette of India and the official gazettes of states, and also in regional language newspapers.
- Conducts public sittings wherein the public’s opinion is heard through written or oral representations. If found appropriate, changes are made to the draft proposal.
- The final order is published in the Gazettes and comes into effect by a date specified by the President.
Problems with Delimitation
- Little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament. The southern states that promoted family planning may end up with lesser seats compared to northern states.
- The constitution has capped the number of Lok Shaba & Rajya Sabha seats to a maximum of 550 & 250 respectively and hence population increase results in large populations being represented by a single representative.
- In the United States, boundary delimitation is called redistricting. Unbalanced or discriminatory delimitation is called “gerrymandering”.
- Gerrymandering in the United States has been used to increase the power of a political party
- The powers of delimitation commission in India shows the wisdom of the Indian constitution makers regarding delimitation in India (Delimitation Commission’s orders cannot be called in question before any court / no modifications are permissible therein by House of the People and the State Legislative Assembly concerned)
Why in News?
A new office premises of the Delimitation Commission, set up earlier this year to redraw the constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, was inaugurated recently.
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