Time may be running out for a plea in Supreme Court challenging J&K delimitation

A letter from petitioners’ lawyers to Registrar cites urgency saying delimitation exercise may get “over soon”

May 01, 2022 09:43 pm | Updated 09:43 pm IST - New Delhi

The petition wants the Supreme Court to also examine why Jammu and Kashmir has been “singled out” for delimitation.

The petition wants the Supreme Court to also examine why Jammu and Kashmir has been “singled out” for delimitation. | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Time may be running out for a petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint a Delimitation Commission headed by former apex court judge, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, to redraw Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the former State.

The petition filed by two Jammu and Kashmir residents, Haji Abdul Gani Khan and Mohammad Ayub Mattoo, wants the Supreme Court to also examine why Jammu and Kashmir has been “singled out” for delimitation when Article 170 of the Constitution says that such an exercise for the entire country was due only in the year 2026.

The case was filed on March 28 this year. On April 13, the petitioners’ lawyers, senior advocate Ravi Shankar Jandhyala and advocate Sriram Parakkat, made an oral mentioning in court for an early listing of the case. The court had directed its Registry to list the case before an appropriate Bench.

But a letter from the petitioners’ lawyers to the Registrar, Supreme Court, on April 27 showed the case had still not been listed. The letter pointed out the urgency in the case. It said the delimitation may get “over soon”, by May 6, 2022.

“It is most respectfully submitted that the matter be listed before an appropriate Bench,” Mr. Sriram Parakkat wrote in his letter.

The petition argued that the Centre had usurped the jurisdiction of the Election Commission by notifying the delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir.

Second notification

It highlighted how the Centre had first issued a notification on March 6, 2020 constituting the Commission led by Justice Desai to conduct the delimitation of the constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. However, the Centre had issued a second notification on March 3, 2021 restricting the scope of delimitation to Jammu and Kashmir alone.

The petition also alleged that the increase in the number of seats from 107 to 114 (including 24 seats in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir was ultra vires both the Constitution and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

Constitutional amendment

It said any step to increase the number of seats in Jammu and Kashmir would require a constitutional amendment besides changes in the Delimitation Act, 2002 and the Representation of the People Act, 1950.

"When the last Delimitation Commission was set up on July 12, 2002 after the 2001 census to carry out the exercise throughout the country, it had clearly stated that the total number of existing seats in the legislative Assemblies of all States, including Union Territories of the National Capital Region and Puducherry, fixed on the basis of the 1971 census, should remain unaltered till the census to be taken after the year 2026," the petition argued.

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