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More seats for Sikkim Assembly

The Home Ministry has proposed an increase in the number of seats in the Sikkim Assembly from 32 to 40. The expansion will be the first since the State merged with India in 1975.

The seats are being increased to accommodate people from the Limboo and Tamang communities, notified as the Scheduled Tribes in Sikkim in January 2003. Of the eight seats proposed to be increased, five will be reserved for Limboo and Tamangs. Now, Sikkim has 12 seats reserved for Bhutias and Lepchas, two for the Scheduled Castes, one seat for the Sanghas and 17 general seats. As per constitutional provisions, the total number of seats for STs should be in proportion to the population.

The seats for Bhutia and Lepchas are reserved not on the basis of them being a Scheduled Tribe, but as a sequel to a political agreement in 1973 between the Government of India, ex-Chogyal (King) of Sikkim and political parties.

A petition was moved in the Supreme Court that Limboo and Tamangs were not adequately represented in the Assembly and the apex court on January 4, 2016 directed the Home Ministry to take necessary action. A senior government official said a proposal has been sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice to amend the Representation of the People Act (RPA) for the purpose. As per the Delimitation Act, 2002, the number of seats in an Assembly of any State can only be readjusted on the basis of the first census conducted after 2026.

The Law ministry also said that the final order made by the Delimitation Commission could not have been challenged by any court but the special constitutional provision to Sikkim allows them to make the changes.

Mr. Chamling also said that “the existing specific reservation of 12 seats for Bhutia and Lepcha communities, and one seat for Sangha constituency, which are given to them on the basis of being Scheduled Tribes should not be disturbed or tinkered with.”

A resolution passed by the Sikkim Assembly in 2009 had generated apprehension in the minds of the indigenous Bhutia-Lepchas and the expansion of the assembly seats could dilute their political rights until there was a “proportionate increase” of seats.

As a way out, Mr. Chamling suggested that the entire State assembly be designated as “Scheduled Tribes.” The ministry of Tribal affairs opposed the move as the remaining communities like Thami, Chhetri, Sanyasi, Newar, Kirt Khambu Rai, Kirat Dewan, Sunuwar, Gurung, Mangar and Bhujel did not fulfil the criteria.

“There will be amendments to the Second Schedule to the RP Act, 1950, whereby total seats in Sikkim Legislative Assembly will be 40 in place of existing 32, reserving five seats for Limboo and Tamang, while retaining existing reservations for Bhutias, Lepchas, Scheduled Castes and Sanghas,” a draft proposal of the home ministry said.

The proposal also said that Section 5A of the RP Act, 1951 will be amended to provide “that in case of a seat reserved for Limboo and Tamang tribe, he is to be a member of Limboo and Tamang tribe specified in the Representation of Sikkim Subjects Act, 1974 and elector or an assembly constituency in the State.”

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 8:57:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/more-seats-for-sikkim-assembly/article20724838.ece

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