The Election Commission (EC) has begun the process of electoral rolls revision in Jammu and Kashmir after a gap of three years, in an indication that polls could be held in the Valley post its delimitation exercise.
In an order issued on Wednesday, the Election Commission has directed special summary revision (SSR) of photo electoral rolls with October 1, 2022 as the qualifying date in Jammu and Kashmir. The pre-revision activities will culminate on August 30. Accordingly, the EC has directed J&K Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar to complete the SSR of the electoral rolls by the end of October.
The EC order comes days after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that Assembly elections in the Union Territory may be held by the end of the year.
The revision of electoral rolls is significant as the exercise is being carried out for the first time since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Before the abrogation, only the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, popularly known as state subjects, were eligible to vote. The summary revision would also allow, for the first time, the displaced people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to apply for voting rights in the Assembly elections. In the past, they were allowed to vote in the parliamentary elections but not in the Assembly elections.
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The order points out that as per existing policy, revision of electoral rolls with reference to January 1 of the coming year as the qualifying date is done in the later part of each year in all states or Union Territories. This ensures that final publication of the electoral rolls can be carried out in the first week of January of the succeeding year, the order says.
“However, due to various administrative reasons, this annual revision of electoral roll could not be undertaken in Jammu and Kashmir after SSR, 2019,” the order reads. In the meantime, the delimitation exercise of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir was in progress and the final delimited constituencies were notified on May 5, it adds.
As the revision of electoral rolls was not conducted for the last three years in Jammu and Kashmir, newly eligible electors could not get themselves registered in the electoral roll, the order says. “In view of the same, in order to update electoral roll on the basis of newly delimited constituencies, so that all newly eligible young electors can have the opportunity to get themselves enrolled, the exercise of Special Summary Revision with reference to the next qualifying date is required to be undertaken without further delay. In the above context, the commission has started pre-revision activities in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir…,” the order says.
The EC has set October 31 as the final date for publication of the revised electoral rolls. The letter says that the publication of integrated draft electoral rolls would be conducted on September 1 while the claims and objections can be filed within a month up to September 30. It says that the claims would be disposed of by October 15.
The commission has set September 25 as the date for checking of health parameters and obtaining EC’s permission for final publication of the electoral rolls and updating of database and printing of supplements. The final publication of the revised electoral rolls would be done on October 31.
The letter says that while a field has been kept for furnishing of Aadhaar number in the registration form, “no application for inclusion of name in electoral roll shall be denied and no entries in electoral roll shall be deleted for inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number”.
Last month, finalising its order for Jammu and Kashmir, the Delimitation Commission recommended seven additional constituencies – six for Jammu and one for Kashmir – taking the total number of seats in the UT to 90 from 83 earlier. This will increase the number of seats in the Jammu Division to 43 from 37 seats earlier, and that in the Kashmir Valley to 47 from 46 earlier.
The panel’s decisions were politically significant and have met with criticism amongst mainstream parties in the Valley since then. The Jammu region has got more seats relative to its population compared with the Kashmir Valley, and this violates the population criterion, these parties have contended. The award of seats based on the 2011 census has meant that Jammu with 44 per cent population will get 48 per cent share in seats, while Kashmir with 56 per cent of population will get only 52 per cent share in seats. Earlier, the Kashmir region had 55.4 per cent share in seats and Jammu 44.5 per cent share in seats.
The Election Commission also held its first meeting on conducting Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir last month, right after Rajiv Kumar took over as the Chief Election Commissioner. Kumar chaired a meeting with J&K chief electoral officer Hirdesh Kumar and senior officials of Nirvachan Sadan on May 23.
“Consequent upon amendment in Section 14 of the Representation of the People Act by Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021…and corresponding changes in the Registration of Electors Rule, 1960 as notified on 17 June, 2022, four qualifying dates, namely, January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1 are available in the law,” the order says, adding that “…the commission has decided to order SSR, 2022 with respect to October 1, 2022 which is the next qualifying date for preparation of electoral roll, after conclusion of the ongoing pre-revision activities”.
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