The Election Commission (EC) held “internal discussions” Tuesday on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, in which Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora and his colleagues Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra were briefed by senior officers on the new law, especially its provisions on delimitation of the state’s assembly seats.
Although the Union government hasn’t formally informed EC about the passage of the Bill, the Commission, meanwhile, has asked its officers to study recent precedents of delimitation — such as one undertaken after Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh — carried out on account of bifurcation of a state. Poll panel sources, however, said delimitation work in Jammu and Kashmir is unlikely to begin unless the Delimitation Commission is notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Delimitation means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats. Population is the basis of redrawing of boundaries and allocation of seats. This task is assigned to a four-member Delimitation Commission of which one of the members represents the EC.
Last week, Parliament approved a resolution abrogating special status to J&K under Article 370 of the Constitution. The state was also bifurcated into two Union Territories — Ladakh with no legislative assembly and Jammu and Kashmir with one.
According to Section 60 of the J&K Reorganisation Act, “The number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir shall be increased from 107 to 114”. Before the state’s bifurcation, Kashmir region had 46 seats followed by Jammu region with 37 and Ladakh with four. The remaining were to represent Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The new law also carries a provision for introduction of reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, EC officials were tightlipped on the timing of Assembly polls and the delimitation exercise and whether the latter will happen before elections are held in Union Territory of J&K. “It’s too early to say anything about that,” said an EC official who did not wish to be identified.
In June, the EC had decided to take a call on J&K’s election schedule only after the Amarnath Yatra, as the Ministry of Home Affairs cited inability to spare forces before that. The Yatra, which was supposed to end on August 15, was curtailed in the first week of August, and within days the government scrapped J&K’s special status.
The exercise of delimitation will be carried out in J&K after over two decades. Although the rest of the country had undergone delimitation in 2002, J&K Assembly had passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation of seats until 2026.