Delimitation exercises are carried out periodically to re-draw the boundaries of the Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies to represent current changes in population, based on the data gathered from the previous Census. When the last delimitation was carried out between 2002-2008, based on the Census of 2001, states of northeast India - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland – were kept out of it as the Census data from these states was challenged for being ‘defective’.
Finally after having being deferred for 12 years, government on 28th February, 2020 cancelled its earlier notifications saying the exercise could be carried out ‘now’ as the previous circumstances of threat and instability had ceased to exist. The Delimitation Commission in India is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court. These orders come into force on a date specified by the President. The copies of its orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assembly concerned, but no modifications are permissible therein by them, according to the Election Commission’s official website. The objective of delimitation is to provide fair and equal representation to each constituency depending on latest demographic data. A change in population therefore could imply either a reduction or an increase in the number of seats allocated to a constituency. The exercise is mentioned in Article 82 of the Constitution that provides for the enactment of a Delimitation Act after every Census by the parliament. The Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission once the Act is in force. For the present exercise, Census of 2011 is going to be taken as the basis.
The first delimitation was carried out in 1951 by the Election Committee, and thereafter all of them have been carried out by Delimitation Commissions, set up in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002. It is also important to note that because of an amendment, the number of seats have been frozen till 2026, by when the country is projected to achieve a uniform population growth rate.
The delimitation of the northeast states has also been challenged on the grounds that it is ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘illegal’. According to SK Mendiratta, the Law Ministry’s notification violates the Representation of the People Act of 1950. The Delimitation Committee has however said that it will carry out the exercise only after preparing a ‘broad framework’ and seek inputs from associate members – of Lok Sabha and MLAs.