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Delimitation exercise UPSC NOTE

 What does delimitation mean and what are the constitutional provisions which deal with it?

  • Delimitation means the process of fixing the number of seats and boundaries of territorial constituencies in each State for the Lok Sabha and Legislative assemblies

  • It also includes determining the seats to be reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in these houses. 

  • Article 82 and 170 of the Constitution provide that the number of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative assemblies .

  • The division into territorial constituencies shall be readjusted after each Census

  • This ‘delimitation process’ is performed by the ‘Delimitation Commission’ that is set up under an act of Parliament. 

  • Such an exercise was carried out after the 1951, 1961 and 1971 Census.

What is the constitutional requirement?

  • ‘Democracy’ means ‘rule or government by the people’. 

  • It follows that the government is elected by a majority with the broad principle of ‘one citizen-one vote-one value’. 

  • The number of seats in the Lok Sabha based on the 1951, 1961 and 1971 Census was fixed at 494, 522 and 543.

  • It has been frozen as per the 1971 Census in order to encourage population control measures so that States with higher population growth do not end up having higher number of seats

  • This was done through the 42nd Amendment Act till the year 2000 and was extended by the 84th Amendment Act till 2026. 

  • Hence, the population based on which the number of seats is allocated refers to the population as per the 1971 Census

  • This number will be re-adjusted based on the first Census after 2026

  • The boundaries of territorial constituencies were readjusted (without changing the number of seats) and seats for SC and ST were determined as per the 2001 Census and will again be carried out after 2026.

  • In a normal course of events, the delimitation process for the number of seats, boundaries of territorial constituencies and determining the reserved seats for SC and ST would have happened based on the Census of 2031 as it would have been the first Census after 2026.

  • However, with the 2021 Census now being postponed and the year 2026 nearing, there have been talks about the impending delimitation exercise.

Why were the seats frozen as per the 1971 Census?

  • The number of seats were frozen based on the 1971 Census in order to encourage population control measures. 

  • The population explosion that happened in our country during the last five decades has been uneven with some States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan having a greater increase than States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh

  • There are two options that are being discussed in the public domain with respect to the revised delimitation exercise based on the projected population of various States as of 2026.

Will the fresh exercise go against the federal principle, giving an advantage to certain States over others?

  • The first is to continue with the existing 543 seats and their redistribution amongst various States.

  • The second is to increase the number of seats to 848 with proportionate increase among various States.

  • It can be noticed in both these scenarios that the southern States, the smaller states in the north like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as well as the northeastern States are bound to be at a disadvantage when compared to the northern States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan

  • This may go against the federal principles of our country and may lead to a feeling of disenchantment in the population of the States that stand to lose in their representation. 

  • It also goes against the philosophy of freezing seats as per the 1971 Census with the States that have been better at controlling the population losing out on their political significance.

Way forward

  • The issue arises because democratic and federal principles seem to be at loggerheads in the delimitation exercise as envisaged. 

  • They can be harmoniously reconciled by giving equal importance to both

  • The main work of a Member of Parliament is to legislate on ‘Union List’ matters like Defence, External Affairs, Railways, Telecommunication, Taxation etc. 

  • Hold the Central government accountable.

  • Majority of the schemes of the Central government are implemented only by the State governments

  • The number of MPs in Lok Sabha may be capped at the present number of 543 which would ensure no disruption in the present representation from various States. 

  • This will maintain and uphold the federal principle. 

  • The number of MLAs in each State may be increased in line with current population (without changing the number of Rajya Sabha seats) to address the democratic representational requirement.

  • The most important reform for strengthening democracy is to empower the local bodies of panchayats and municipalities who engage with the citizens on a day-to-day basis

  • The devolution of powers and finances to these bodies must be significantly increased to strengthen democracy at grass root levels.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Delimitation exercise UPSC NOTE
Delimitation exercise UPSC NOTE
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