Delimitation is limiting or fixing the boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country to identify or represent population changes.
The gradual population trends indicate the continuous migration of people/electorate from one constituency to another, especially from rural to urban areas. This migration results in various sizes of electoral constituencies even within the same State. Administration of such places becomes challenging for the government.
To overcome the challenges due to migration, the Delimitation Act, 2002, was enacted to set up a Delimitation Commission for pragmatic delimitation based on the 2001 census. The Commission focused on fixing the reserved seats for SCs and STs of the 2001 census without affecting the number of seats based on the 1971 census.
Table of Contents
What is Delimitation?
Delimitation is the process of limiting the boundary or limits of a particular territory in the country in case of a population change in the territorial constituency.
Delimitation involves changing the borders of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats to represent a modified population and ensuring equal representation of every population group. In this process, the number of seats allocated to a state also changes as per the change in the population.
The responsibility of delimitation is assigned to a higher authority, known as the Delimitation Commission or the Boundary Commission.
History of the Delimitation Act
The Delimitation Commission was constituted four times under the Delimitation Commission Act as follows:
- In 1952, under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952
- In 1963, under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962
- In 1973, under Delimitation Act, 1972
- In 2002, under Delimitation Act, 2002.
Parliament established the Delimitation Commission by a simple majority.
Prior to delimitation, the ratio between the number of Lok Sabha seats in a state remained the same in all States, whereas the population of States changed. The situation resulted in inadequate representation of the population in Parliament. By contrast, some states promoting family planning would remain with the same number of seats. Therefore, to handle these discrepancies, the constitution was amended in 1976 to redraw the boundaries of constituencies until the 2001 census.
Objective of Delimitation
The following are the three primary objectives of delimitation:
Equal representation of various population segments: This refers to the fair and proportional inclusion of diverse groups within a given context, such as in government, business, education, media, or any other sector.
Equal representation to prevent any one group from dominating decision-making. Thus, the voices, perspectives, and needs of all populations are considered to forge an equitable society ensuring all individuals can participate, contribute, and benefit.
- Fair division of geographical areas: The increase in the population of an area increases the burden on governance. With the population, several other factors, such as internal aggression can lead to territory separation. Therefore, when the areas and territories are demarcated separately, the government can easily administer and prevent one political party from taking advantage of other constituencies.
- One vote, one value: ‘One vote, one value’ reveals that each person’s vote should have the same weight or importance as others. This principle ensures fairness and equality in democratic systems, in which every citizen’s voice matters equally in the decision-making process. Delimitation can ensure free and fair elections by the people of a particular constituency without any hassle.
How is Delimitation Performed?
Delimitation can be performed as follows:
- Under Article 82 of the Constitution of India the seats in Lok Sabha are readjusted based on the completion of each census,. The authority determined by the Parliament by law shall readjust each State into territorial constituencies.
- According to Article 170 of the Constitution, on the completion of each census, the seats in legislative assembly are readjusted along with the readjustment of the division of each State into territorial constituencies by an authority determined by the Parliament by law.
- Articles 330 and 332 of the Constitution of India provided for the rearrangement of the seats reserved for the SCs and STs in the House of Peoples and Legislative Assembly of the states based on the 2001 census.
- Under the Delimitation Commission Act 2002, the Union Government establishes Delimitation Commission.
- With the help of the Election Commission, the President performed the First Delimitation in 1950-51.
- In 1952, the Delimitation Commission Act 1952 was established. Subsequently, the act was constituted in 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002.
- After the 1981 and 1991 censuses, delimitation was halted.
Decisions of the Delimitation Commission
The Delimitation Commission in India is a powerful body making important decisions about setting up constituencies. These decisions have a force of law and cannot be questioned in a court of law. The President of India decides when these decisions will come into effect. The decisions are presented before the House of the People and the State Legislative Assembly, but they cannot change them.
An amendment to the Delimitation Act 2002 has decreed the number of seats to remain the same until the 2026 census because the country is expected to have an even growth rate in population by 2026. There, the most recent delimitation was based on the 2001 Census and performed between July 2002 and 31 March 2008,.
After seat allocation in 2026, only minor changes were made to the existing boundaries of the Lok Sabha and the number of reserved seats. In some places such as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland, organisations approached the Gauhati High Court to challenge the basis for using the 2001 Census for these changes.
An All-Party Delegation from Assam met Shivraj Patil, the then Home Minister, and pleaded that the delimitation be called off as the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was not updated. In response to this plea, the Delimitation Act was amended in 2008, and on 8 February 2008, Presidential Orders were issued deferring the delimitation exercise in the four states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland).
However, on 28 February 2020, the earlier decision was overruled, and the President allowed restarting of the delimitation procedure in the four states. The new decision from the Law Ministry’s Legislative Department stated that the reasons that caused the postponement of the delimitation exercise in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland do not exist anymore. Therefore, they can now proceed on exercising delimitation according to the rules in the Delimitation Act of 2002.
The Delimitation Commission saw fewer clashes, which rendered the situation supportive for making decisions on delimitation.
On 6 March 2002, the Law Ministry notified the Delimitation Commission to work in four northeastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland), including Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir was also left out of this process before 2002-08.
Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir
The reorganisation of the Jammu & Kashmir state into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh rendered the delimitation of their electoral constituencies mandatory. The Electoral Constituencies held an Internal Discussion on The Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019.
The government constituted a group called the Delimitation Commission on 6 March 2020. The Delimitation Commission readjusts Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory per the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which split the State into union territories of J&K and Ladakh.
The chairperson of the Delimitation Commission, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, a retired Supreme Court judge, and Sushil Chandra, the Election Commission’s representative, were among the members of the panel.
Functions of the Delimitation Commission
The primary functions of the Delimitation Commission, as per the Delimitation Act, include the following:
- Ascertaining the number and boundaries of constituencies to the population of all constituencies nearly equal.
- Provide reserved seats to the SCs and STs, wherever their population is large.
- Release draft proposals to the public by the Official Gazette of States, also in its regional language newspaper.
- Conduct public meetings such that the individuals shall have a chance of being heard through written or oral representation.
When the Commission makes an order, it shall be approval from the President, and then shall come into effect on a date specified by the President. Such final orders shall be published in the Official Gazette.
If the Commission encounters any conflicting opinion, the majority decision shall prevail. The decision of the Delimitation Commission has the force of law and cannot be challenged by any authority.
Constitution of the Delimitation Commission as per the Delimitation Act
Section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002, provides for the constitution of the Delimitation Commission and states that the Central Government, that is, the President of India, after consultation with the Election Commission of India, shall set up the Delimitation Commission.
According to the Delimitation Commission Act 2002, the Delimitation Commission shall have three members, including the following:
- A serving/retired judge of the Supreme Court who shall be the chairperson, and
- The Chief Election Commissioner or the Election Commissioner nominated by the Chief Election Commissioner, and
- The State Election Commissioner as an ex-officio member.
Duties of the Commission under the Delimitation Act
Section 4 of the Delimitation Act provides the duties of the Delimitation Commission as readjusting the divisions into territorial constituencies in each State for elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assembly based on the 2001 census figures.
Associate Members of the Commission
According to Section 5 of the Delimitation Act, the Commission shall constitute 10 members who work as associates and assist in each State’s duties. Of these 10, 5 people shall be from the House of Peoples of that State and the other 5 people from the State Legislative Assembly.
The Speaker of the House shall nominate the members of the House of Peoples, and the Speaker of the assemble shall nominate the members of the State Legislative Assembly.
The Commission can call upon the Registrar-General of India, Surveyor General of India, any Central or State Government officer, or any geographical information system expert whose expertise and knowledge fit to assist the Commission in any particular matter.
The Secretary to the Election Commission is the ex-officio Secretary of the Delimitation Commission.
According to Section 6, if the member of the associates or office of the Chairman falls vacant because of death or resignation, then it shall be filled by the Central Government or the Speaker concerned.
Procedure and Powers of the Delimitation Commission
Section 7 of the Delimitation Act provides for the procedure and powers of the Commission.
Procedure of the Delimitation Commission—Section-7(1)
The Delimitation Commission shall have the authority to decide its rules of procedure in performing its functions.
During the trial, the Commission shall have all the powers of a civil court as provided under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Such power includes the following:
- Summoning and requiring the attendance of a witness,
- Requiring the production of any document,
- Requisitioning any public record from any court or any public office when required.
Powers of the Delimitation Commission—Section 7(2) to 7(6)
The following are the other powers of the Commission as provided under the Delimitation Act:
- According to sub-section 2, the Commission shall have the authority to require any person to furnish any information on any point the Commission may deem necessary.
- According to sub-section 3, the Commission shall authorise any person or authority to perform all the powers and functions conferred on it by sub-section 1 of Section 7. Any order or decision of the body shall be deemed the order made by the Commission.
- According to sub-section 4, in case of any conflicting decisions among the members of the Commission or the associates, the majority decision shall always prevail.
- According to sub-section 5, the Commission and the associates shall continue functioning irrespective of whether any position in the Commission is vacant or any associate is absent. No order of the Commission or associates shall be declared invalid merely because it was made in the absence of any of its members.
- According to sub-section 6, the Commission shall be deemed a civil court for sections 345 and 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
Delimitation of Constituencies
According to Section 9 of the Delimitation Act, the Commission shall have the right to distribute the seats allocated to each State in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly. Furthermore, the Commission can readjust seats based on the 1971 census to single-member territorial constituencies and reorganise them based on the 2001 census requirement. When exercising such powers, the Commission can consider the following:
- As far as possible, all constituencies should be geographically compact areas;
- In delimiting the constituencies, the physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience must be considered;
- Every assembly constituency shall be delimited in such a way as to fall wholly within one parliamentary constituency;
- Constituencies in which seats are reserved for the SCs shall be distributed in different parts of the State;
- Constituencies in which seats are reserved for the STs shall be distributed in areas in which the proportion of their population to the total is the largest.
Duties of the Commission
- Publish its proposals of the delimitation of constituencies, along with the dissenting proposals of any associate member desiring publication in the Official Gazette of India.
- Specify a date on or after which the proposals shall be further considered by it.
- Consider all objections and suggestions.
- Determine the delimitation of Parliamentary Constituencies and assembly constituencies of each State and make one or more orders as may be necessary.
Power to Maintain Delimitation Order Up-To-Date
According to Section 11 of the Delimitation Act, by notification in the Gazette of India and Official Gazette of the State, the Election Commission shall have the following powers:
- Correct any printing mistake in any order made by the Commission while exercising its powers under Section 9 or arising from accidental slip or omission.
- Amend any district’s boundaries, name, or territorial division altered in such order.
Every notification shall be laid before the House of Peoples and the State Legislative Assembly concerned as soon as it is issued under Section 11.
Current Position of Delimitation
In the General election in 2009, out of 543, 499 parliamentary constituencies were newly added to the delimited constituencies. This phenomenon affected the constituencies National Capital Region of Delhi, the Union Territory of Puducherry, and all other states except J&K, Manipur, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Nagaland.
Drawbacks of Delimitation
Certain states focused on population control and had more seats in their Parliamentary Constituency. However, certain Southern states emphasising family planning faced a reduction of their Parliamentary seats.
The delimitation in 2008 was based on the 2001 census, but the total seats in the Assemblies and Parliament remained unchanged since the 1971 Census.
The constitution has also fixed the number of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha seats to a maximum of 250 and 550, respectively, and a single representative representing the increase in the population. The weightage given by the Finance Commission to the population can be reduced to 5%-10%.
The seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies were fixed till 2001 but were changed after the 2001 census, which is to be again amended in 2026. This was mainly focused on the uniform population growth rate by 2026.
Relevant Case Laws Related to Delimitation
Atma Singh And Others vs. State Of Punjab and Others
The writ petition was aptly used by a voter who challenged the legality of the Delimitation of Constituency’s notifications issued under Section 5(5) of the Act.
The Delimitation Act of 2002 was enacted to readjust the allocation of seats in Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assembly. The act affected certain states, that is, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland. The adjustments were made based on the shift in dynamics of the population.
FAQs on the Delimitation Act 2002
Why was the Delimitation Act 2002 enacted?
The Delimitation Act was enacted to redraw the boundaries of the Parliament and Assembly of the State for equal representation.
Who is responsible for conducting delimitation in India?
Delimitation is performed by the Delimitation Commission. The commission can change the boundary of any constituency.
Who appoints the Delimitation Commission?
The President of India has the authority to appoint the Delimitation Commission.
What factors are considered during the delimitation process?
Certain factors, like population change, administrative convenience, and geographical convenience, are prominent factors considered during the delimitation process.
Can the delimitation orders be challenged in court?
The Delimitation Commission's orders generally are legally binding and cannot be questioned in court.