New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday (May 13) asked the Union government, administration of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Election Commission to file their replies on a plea challenging the recent delimitation exercise undertaken in the area.
“…all respondents being represented before us in order to examine it is necessary to have the stand of the respondent filed on affidavit. The affidavits be filed within 6 weeks,” LiveLaw quoted the bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh as saying.
The bench also noted that since this case was not about the revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A, the parts of the petition criticising that move was to be ignored. “On our specific query Ld. Counsel for petitioner submits that he is not assailing the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of Constitution of India. Thus, the allegations in that behalf are relevant and to be ignored,” the judges said.
The matter will be heard next on August 30.
The petition has alleged that the delimitation exercise was supposed to be carried out on the basis of the 2011 population Census, but there was no such population census in the UT that year.
The plea also challenges the increase in number of seats from 107 to 114 (including 24 seats in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir to be ultra vires Articles 81, 82, 170, 330 and 332 of the Constitution and Section 63 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, according to LiveLaw.
The petition, filed by residents of Jammu and Kashmir K, also sought a declaration that the constitution of the Delimitation Commission under the Delimitation Act 2022 is without power, jurisdiction and authority, Hindustan Times reported.
On May 5, a three-member delimitation panel headed by Supreme Court Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai notified 90 assembly constituencies in J&K. According to the notification, seven additional constituencies have been added to the J&K assembly.
As The Wire has reported, while the assembly constituencies in Jammu, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s stronghold, have increased from 37 to 43 with the addition of six new seats, the number of seats in Kashmir has gone up only one notch, from 46 to 47. This is despite the fact that Jammu’s population is only 53 lakh, around 15 lakh less than the Kashmir Valley’s population of approximately 68 lakh, according to the 2011 Census.
In the revised electoral map drawn by the delimitation panel, the average population of an assembly constituency in the Muslim-majority Kashmir will be 1.4 lakh, while it will be only 1.2 lakh in Jammu, which is the bastion of the saffron party.