Delimitation in India

Delimitation means the drawing of boundaries. The boundaries may be domestic, national and International, but the most general use of this term is in context with electoral boundaries. Article 82 (Readjustment after each census) makes provision for delimitation of the electoral boundaries. It is the process of allocation of number of Seats and their demarcation into territories.

Under Article 82, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. After coming into force commencement of the Act, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission. This Delimitation Commission demarcates the boundaries of the Parliamentary Constituencies as per provisions of the Delimitation Act.

Delimitation commissions have been set up four times in the past viz. 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under Delimitation Commission acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.

Purpose of Delimitation

In India, the main basis for allocation of seats to various States in the Lok Sabha is Population of the state. The division of each state into the territorial constituencies is to be readjusted after the completion of a census so that the Population-Seat ratio is maintained within the state and throughout the Union. So the purpose is the Rationalization of the structure and composition of the electoral constituencies, on the principle of “ One vote and one value”.

First Delimitation Commission

When the constitution came in existence, it had fixed the number of Seats to Lok Sabha as not more than 500. For the First General Elections for Lok Sabha as well as legislative Assemblies for 1951-52, the Election Commission had divided the entire country into viable territorial divisions of parliamentary / assembly Constituencies. However, after that this task was given to the Independent Delimitation Commission.  Accordingly, separate delimitation commissions were set up in 1952 (basis of 1951 census), 1962 (basis of 1961 census), 1972 (basis of 1971 census).

Ban on Delimitation

The 42nd Amendment Act 1976 had put a ban on any further delimitation of the Constituencies till the year 2000. So after the 42nd amendment act 1976, the total number of seats in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has remained the same. This ban was imposed mostly on the account of the fear that a few states to get more seats in the Lok Sabha on the basis of a large population may not take much interest in the family planning. So, indirectly this was done so that states may not be biased towards the family planning measures.

Delimitation and 84th Amendment Act 2002

The 84th Amendment Act 2002 extended the freeze till the year 2026. This was based upon the calculations of the population planners that by 2026 India will be able to stabilize the population.

So next allocation of seats would be carried out on the basis of the Census after 2026 and the number of seats will not change by then. By enacting the 84th amendment Act,2002,  it was also decided to undertake readjustment and rationalization of territorial constituencies in the States, without altering the number of seats allotted to each State in the House of the People and Legislative Assemblies of the States, including the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes constituencies, on the basis of the population ascertained at the census for the year 1991, so as to remove the imbalance caused due to uneven growth of population/electorate in different constituencies. So 84th amendment Act did two things:

  • Freeze the fresh delimitation till 2026
  • Allowed to readjust the seats.

The year 1991 was later altered to 2001 by 87th amendment act 2003.

Delimitation Act 2002

In pursuant with the 84th Amendment Act 2002, the Delimitation Act 2002 was passed. Under this act Delimitation Commission was constituted in July 2002. The Chairman of this commission was Justice Kuldeep Singh.  Justice Kuldeep Singh was a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The Ex-officio members of this Commission were an election commissioner of India and state election commissioners. So this commission started working on the basis of 1991 census data. But later in 2003, the word “1991” in the article 82 of the constitution was removed and replaced by 2001. This means that the work done till then by the commission became obsolete. The commission later restarted the work as it was now entrusted with the task of readjusting all parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the country in all the states of India, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir, on the basis of population ascertained in 2001 Census.

Later, The Guwahati High court stayed the delimitation exercise in respect of the Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (5 states) on the basis of the disputes in the census Figures. In Manipur the work of delimitation was later resumed after Supreme Court stayed on the order of the Guwahati High Court.

Current Position of Delimitation

In the 2009 general elections, 499 out of the total 543 Parliamentary constituencies were newly delimited constituencies. This affected the National Capital Region of Delhi, the Union Territory of Puducherry and all the states except Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur and Nagaland. Many instances, a constituency with the same name may reflect a significantly different population demographic as well as a slightly altered geographical region.

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