Panel is already on one-year extended term till Mar 6 next year
Assembly polls can be held only after Comm submits report
JAMMU, Oct 26: The Government is understood to have conveyed to the Delimitation Commission, engaged in delimitation of 90 Assembly constituencies for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, to stick to March 6, 2022 deadline of submitting its report and that no further extension will be granted to it. The Panel, headed by Justice (Retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai is already on a one-year extension.
Reliable sources told the Excelsior that though the Delimitation Commission has to complete lot of work it has reportedly been conveyed to finish the task in remaining nearly four months on the ground that any further extension to the Panel will give an impression that the Government wants to delay Assembly elections in the Union Territory.
The Delimitation Commission which comprised Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and State Election Commissioner (SEC) KK Sharma was set up on March 6, 2020 and assigned the task of delimitation of 90 Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir with a tenure of one year. However, due to COVID pandemic, the Commission held just one meeting at the fag end of its one-year tenure on February 18, 2021 with Associate Members. It didn’t visit J&K even once during first term prompting the Law Ministry to extend its term by another year till March 6, 2022.
During extended period, the full Commission visited Jammu and Kashmir for four days from July 6-9, 2021 covering both Jammu and Kashmir divisions and also touring far-flung districts of Kishtwar and Anantnag meeting all District Electoral Officer (DEOs), representatives of political parties and other stakeholders.
If the Commission submits its report on time i.e. March 6, 2022, despite all-odds, it will assume significance as this will clear the decks for conduct of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The polls in the Union Territory can be held only after delimitation of 90 Assembly seats is final.
During its visit to Jammu and Kashmir from July 6-9, the Commission had said it will tour the Union Territory once again. Also, before finalization of draft report, the Commission had to meet Associate Members once again to share report with them before putting it in public domain for inviting claims and objections.
Further, certain territorial disputes had also arisen within the districts which are being sorted out by the Delimitation Commission with the help of Survey of India. The disputes were results of creation of eight new districts in Jammu and Kashmir by Congress-PDP coalition Government headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad followed by new tehsils and blocks by National Conference-Congress coalition Government led by Omar Abdullah.
Once the delimitation exercise is completed, the number of Assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir will go up from 83 to 90.
Twenty-four seats of the Assembly continue will remain vacant as they have been reserved for Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK) and the Delimitation Commission hasn’t been mandated to defreeze them.
While splitting Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories through the Reorganization Act, the Union Home Ministry had increased Assembly seats of Jammu and Kashmir by seven taking total seats to 114—-24 of which are reserved for PoJK while election will be held for 90 seats.
Erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir had 111 seats including 24 reserved for PoK while elections were held for 87 seats. With creation of Ladakh as Union Territory, four seats of the region were reduced and the Assembly was left with 83 seats. However, with increase of seven seats, J&K UT will have an Assembly of 90 seats. Two Women MLAs will be nominated to the House, which was the position earlier also.
In the previous Assembly, Kashmir had 46 seats, Jammu 37 and Ladakh four.
Delimitation of the Assembly constituencies was last held in 1994-95 during the President’s Rule when seats of the erstwhile State Assembly were raised from 76 to 87. Jammu region’s seats were increased from 32 to 37, Kashmir’s from 42 to 46 and Ladakh’s two to four. However, the delimitation was freezed in 2002 by the then National Conference Government headed by Dr Farooq Abdullah in lines with the decision taken by then Central Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Elections to the Legislative Assembly will be held only after delimitation of Assembly constituencies is completed.