The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its judgment on a plea challenging the decision of the Union Government to constitute the Delimitation Commission for re-drawing the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul reserved the judgment after hearing all the parties in the case. The Union Government and the Election Commission of India (ECI) have defended the decision to conduct the delimitation exercise in J&K.

Two Srinagar-based residents namely Haji Abdul Gani Khan and Dr. Mohammad Ayub Mattoo have challenged the constitution of the Delimitation Commission. The duo observed that the delimitation exercise was carried out contrary to the scheme of the constitution, and alteration of boundaries and inclusion of extended areas could not be done.

Supreme Court of India

Petitioners challenge the constitution of the Delimitation Commission

Petitioners through their lawyer argued that the delimitation exercise was in degradation by the scheme of the Constitution of India, especially Article 170(3) which had frozen delimitation till the first census after 2026.

They argued that the delimitation exercise was being carried out in the teeth of constitutional and statutory provisions. The petitioners further submitted that after the delimitation order was passed in the year 2008, no further delimitation exercise could have been undertaken. They emphasized that post-2008, all delimitation-related exercises can be carried out only by the Election Commission and not a Delimitation Commission.

Delimitation commission
Members of J&K Delimitation Commission signing final reportsocial media

The plea sought a 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 the Constitutional Provisions such as Articles 81, 82, 170, 330, and 332 and Statutory Provisions, particularly under Section 63 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

Delimitation Commission was constituted in March 2020

Headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, the Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir was constituted by the Centre on March 6, 2020, to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the Union Territory.

The panel was constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which bifurcated the erstwhile state into the union territories of J&K and Ladakh.

The Commission had the then Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and the then state election commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir as its ex-officio members.

Delimitation commission
Members of J&K Delimitation Commission displaying final reportsocial media

Commission submitted its final report on May 5

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation Commission on May 5 submitted its final report to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The panel changed the names of some Assembly constituencies and shifted a few tehsils and Patwar Halqas from one segment to another on the basis of suggestions obtained after the draft report and made the recommendation for the nomination of two Kashmiri migrants including a woman to the Legislative Assembly.