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SC dismisses challenge to delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir

The top court had earlier reserved its verdict on the plea challenging the same

Supreme Court Supreme Court of India | PTI

Supreme Court on Monday dismissed petition challenging government's decision to constitute delimitation commission for redrawing the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Bench comprising Justice S.K Kaul and Justice A.S. Oka passed the order in a plea challenging the delimitation exercise.

Justice Oka said that the judgment has clarified that the dismissal of the petition should not be construed as giving imprimatur to the decisions taken in relation to Article 370 as the said issue is pending before a Constitution Bench, reported Live Law.

Petitioners, Haji Abdul Gani Khan and Muhammad Ayub Matto, had challenged the constitutional validity of the delimitation exercise pointing out that there is a bar on such move before 2016.

The issue of validity of the exercise of power relating to Article 370 is subject matter of petitions pending before the apex court, observed the bench. The petitions challenging the Centre's decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 was seized by the top court on August 5, 2019. Several petitions were filed in the SC relating to Article 370 and J&K Reorganisation Act 2019, which has split Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories. 

Representing the petitioners, Ravi Shankar Jandhyala had said that the delimitation exercise was in violation of the scheme of the Constitution of India, especially Article 170(3), which had frozen delimitation till the first census after 2026, reported Live Law.

He also argued that the delimitation exercise was being carried out in the issues of constitutional and statutory provisions.

He further submitted that after the delimitation order was passed in the year 2008, no further delimitation exercise could have been undertaken.

The Senior Counsel emphasised that post 2008, all delimitation related exercise can be carried out only by the Election Commission and not a Delimitation Commission, Live Law reported.

The Counsel for Election Commission submitted that so far as the increase in number of seats is concerned, ample opportunity was given for raising objections, which was not utlised and the delimitation order has now attained the force of law, reported Live Law.

Meanwhile, CPI (M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said that the SC dismissing the plea was another disappointment for the people of the UT.

"Carrying out the delimitation process under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act is unacceptable," Tarigami, who is also the spokesperson for the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, told PTI.

Earlier in December last year, the top court had reserved its verdict on the plea challenging the delimitation exercise. The SC then observed that the delimitation commission formed to redraw the assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies was empowered to do so.

The plea by the petitioners sought declaration that the increase in the number of seats from 107 to 114 (including 24 seats in Pakistan occupied Kashmir) in Jammu and Kashmir is ultra vires constitutional provisions and statutory provisions, particularly under section 63 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. 

"It clearly stated that the total number of existing seats in the Legislative Assemblies of all states, including UTs of the National Capital Region and Pondicherry, as fixed based on the 1971 census shall remain unaltered till the first census to be taken after the year 2026," the plea had submitted.

(With PTI inputs)

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