Delimitation: Bar fears move aimed at giving Jammu electoral advantage

Srinagar: The state government’s move to constitute a Delimitation Commission is meant to increase Assembly segments in Jammu division, the Kashmir High Court Bar Association said Friday.

“It (constitution) of Delimitation Commission is aimed at creating nine more constituencies in Jammu division, making it equal (with) the number of constituencies in Kashmir division, irrespective of the population,” said advocate Mohammad Ashraf Bhat, the general secretary of the lawyers’ body in a statement.
At present, there are 87 Assembly constituencies in the state—46 in Kashmir Valley, 37 in Jammu and 4 in Ladakh region. Under Section 47(1) of the Constitution of J&K, it is provided that the Legislative Assembly shall consist of 111 members chosen by direct election from territorial constituencies of the state.
However, under Section 48 of the Constitution, 24 seats in the Legislative Assembly shall remain vacant for Pakistan-administered Kashmir and will not be taken into account for counting the total membership of the Assembly.
There is a freeze imposed by the state government on delimitation of assembly constituencies in the state till 2026.
In 2009, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal filed against the division bench orders of J&K High Court and ruled that it cannot interfere in matters of delimitation as there was an express ‘constitutional bar’ on such interferences.
The main thrust of the challenge before the High Court, as well as before the apex court was on whether or not the action of the government in postponing the delimitation of territorial constituencies of the state pertaining to the Legislative Assembly until the relevant figures published after the first census taken after 2026 was legally sustainable.
The petitioner, JKNPP led by Bhim Singh had claimed to be aggrieved of the amendment to the J&K Representation of the People Act 1957, especially the amendment in Section 3 brought about in 2002. The Section 3 states that constitution of Delimitation Commission (as soon as may be after the completion of each census) the government shall constitute a Delimitation Commission which shall consist of three members—one (who is or has) been a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in India; a Deputy Election Commissioner nominated by the Chief Election Commissioner and one of the members is to be appointed by the Governor under clause (a) of sub-section (1) to be the Chairman of the Delimitation Commission.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday termed as “quite strange” the government calls of delimitation of Assembly constituencies. “The law is clear that there can be no delimitation till 2026,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bar Association has decided to hold a seminar on March 27 coinciding with the 17th death anniversary of Advocate Jalil Andrabi. In the seminar, to be held in District Court Complex at Bemina here, the Bar has decided that the participants will be requested to focus on the topics relating to political prisoners languishing in jails, both inside and outside the state and also on the political situation arising out of the announcement of ‘Agenda of Alliance’ by the BJP-PDP combine, in which it has been agreed that refugees from Pakistan-administrated Kashmir will be settled while those from West Pakistan will be given “state subject status and other amenities at par with the residents of J&K State.”
The speakers at the seminar will also focus on the Delimitation Commission.