Even though the population has increased there has not been a similar increase in the number of elected representatives. How the strength of Lok Sabha is determined. Discuss why there has been a freeze.

The composition of the Lower House has remained more or less the same for four decades inspite of the fact that the population has increased tremendously.

What is the strength of Lok Sabha?

Article 81 of the Constitution provides that the House of People shall consist of not more than 550 elected members of whom not more than 20 will represent Union Territories. The President can also nominate up to two Anglo-Indians if he/she feels the community is inadequately represented in the House as per Article 331.

Article 81 also states that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as possible, the same for all states. This is to ensure that every state is equally represented.

But this logic of equitable distribution does not apply to small states whose population is less than 60 lakh. At least one seat is allocated to every state even if it means that its population-to-seat-ratio is not enough to qualify it for that seat.

How Population is determined?

Article 81 provides for the distribution of seats in Lok Sabha based on the population. For the purpose of seat allocation under Article 81, the population has to be ascertained as at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published.

Why there is a Freeze?

The strength of Lok Sabha and number of seats Lok Sabha state must be based on the last published Census. But through 84th constitutional amendment Clause in 2003, the population has been defined to mean population as per the 1971 Census, until the first Census taken after 2026.

An unintended consequence of the principle of equitable distribution was such that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament. The southern states which constructively promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.

To allay the fears of reduced representation owing to the adaptation of family planning measures, the Constitution was amended during  Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.

Even though the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the Census of 2001, another amendment postponed this until 2026 on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.

Hence the last delimitation exercise which started in July 2002 was conducted on the basis of the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing Lok Sabha and Assembly seats and reworked the number of seats reserved for SCs and STs.

Published: October 14, 2019 | Modified:December 1, 2019

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