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SC refuses to stay delimitation exercise underway in Assam, issues notice to Centre

Refusing to stay the delimitation process of the Election Commission initiated in Assam, the bench said it wouldn’t issue any order restraining the poll panel to take any further steps regarding the delimitation exercise in the state.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the ongoing delimitation exercise underway in Assam but agreed to hear a challenge made to it by opposition leaders of the state.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra issued notice to the Centre on the plea and asked the Centre to file an affidavit within three weeks.

Refusing to stay the delimitation process of the Election Commission initiated in Assam, the bench said it wouldn’t issue any order restraining the poll panel to take any further steps regarding the delimitation exercise in the state.

“At this stage when delimitation has commended having due regard to the issuance of the draft proposal on June 20, 2023, it would not be proper to interdict the process at this stage. Hence, while reserving the constitutional challenge, we are not issuing any orders restraining the Election Commission to take any further steps”, the apex court stated in its order.

The apex court was hearing a plea filed by ten opposition leaders from Assam challenging the recent draft proposal of the Election Commission of India (ECI) for the delimitation of Assam’s 126 Assembly constituencies and 14 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The petition also challenged Section 8A of the Representation of People Act, 1950 as per which the Election Commission is exercising its power in conducting the delimitation process.

The petitioners filing the petition through advocate advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi challenged the provision on the grounds of the same being arbitrary and opaque apart from also being discriminatory to the State of Assam.

The petitioners who have filed the petition are Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Assam Jatiya Parishad), Debabrata Saikia (INC), Rokibul Hussain (INC), Akhil Gogoi (Raijor Dal), Manoranjan Talukdar (CPI(M)), Ghanakanta Chutia (Trinamool Congress), Munin Mahanta (CPI), Diganta Konwar (Anchalik Gana Morcha), Mahendra Bhuyan (Nationalist Congress Party), and Swarna Hazarika (Rashtriya Janata Dal).

The petitioners have challenged recent proposals of the ECI readjusting the extent of 126 Assembly and 14 Lok Sabha Constituencies in Assam by a draft order issued on June 20.

The petition challenged the methodology adopted by the ECI by taking different Average Assembly Size for different districts and argues that population density or populous-ness has no role to play in the process of delimitation.

“While the Constitution of India envisages an exercise whereby Constituencies are to be readjusted so as to ensure that all constituencies are comprised of an almost equal population, by relying on 2001 census figures, the Election Commission has created three categories of districts and has taken different yardstick for the three categories resulting in possible deviation of up to 33 per cent between the population of the largest and smallest constituency,” the petition stated.

Petition contended that delimitation for the rest of the country has been conducted by a high-powered body headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge and the same Commission was formed for Jammu and Kashmir as well.

“However, the provision of Section 8A discriminates against Assam and three North-Eastern States, for which the Election Commission has been prescribed as the authority to conduct delimitation,” it further stated.

The petition has also highlighted certain statements of the Chief Minister of Assam who has publicly stated that the present exercise will be beneficial to one party i.e., BJP while being damaging to other opposition parties.

Such statements, the petition submitted, while do not inspire any confidence in the exercise, also give rise to apprehensions that the ECI exercise has not been independent and has been heavily dictated by the State government, it added.

The apex court also seized two PILs regarding the delimitation of four North-Eastern States including Assam.

In December of last year, the Election Commission began the delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies in Assam by using the 2001 Census as per Section 8A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.

(This news report is published from a syndicated feed. Except for the headline, the content has not been written or edited by OpIndia staff)

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