New Delhi: Expressing dissatisfaction over the Centre’s delay in responding to a plea challenging the Jammu and Kashmir delimitation exercise, the Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned as to why the government did not file the counter affidavit even after being granted six weeks’ time.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka remarked that it is not imposing cost only because of the assurance of the Centre’s counsel that the counter-affidavit will be submitted in a week and posted the further hearing for September 29.
The bench was dealing with a plea, in which the petitioner said that the delimitation exercise, which was carried out recently on the basis of the 2011 population census, is unconstitutional as no population census operation was carried out in 2011 for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
As per the plea, the Delimitation Commission does not have the power to carry out the exercise as under Section 9(1)(b) of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1950 and Section 11(1)(b) of the Delimitation Act 2022, the power vested on the Election Commission is to update the delimitation order by making the necessary changes on account of subsequent events and the said power cannot change boundaries or areas or extent of any constituency by way of any notification.
The plea also challenges the increase in the number of seats from 107 to 114 (including 24 seats in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir to be ultra vires Articles 81, 82, 170, 330, and 332 of the Constitution and Section 63 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
The change not being proportionate with the respective population is also violative of Section 39 of the UT Act, it stressed.
Following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 and division of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, the Delimitation Commission was appointed to redraw the Assembly constituencies of J&K.
The Commission submitted its report on May 5, recommending 90 Assembly constituencies in the Union Territory.
Out of the 90, 43 seats are in Jammu and 47 in the Kashmir region, against 37 for Jammu and 46 for the Kashmir Valley earlier.