In a first major political decision after the abrogation of Article 370, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on Friday rejected the process of setting up of a Delimitation Commission by the Centre for redrawing parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the Union Territory.
The Grand Old Party of J&K said its MPs will not participate in the exercise as the party is unwilling to accept the events that unfolded post August 5 last year.
“National Conference will not participate in the delimitation exercise,” National Conference chief spokesperson, Ruhullah Mehdi, said. The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by NC president Dr. Farooq Abdullah.
The Lok Sabha Speaker had nominated five MPs from Jammu and Kashmir as associate members of the delimitation panel. It included Union minister Jitendra Singh and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah. They panel members were nominated after the delimitation commission had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.
Normally, members of the Assembly are nominated as associate members but as the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has no legislative assembly at present, the Commission asked for nomination of the MPs. Five Members of Parliament including former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah, Union Minister Jitendra Singh, Jugal Kishore Sharma from BJP, Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone from NC were nominated as the delimitation panel’s associate members from Jammu and Kashmir.
On March 6, 2020 the centre had constituted the delimitation commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai. The panel will primarily be responsible for redrawing Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
The delimitation panel will delimit the constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act and that of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh in accordance with the provisions of the Delimitation Act, 2002.
“We are against the decision taken on August 5, 2019. The fallout of the August 5 decision is we are stripped of our autonomy and identity and our constitution is taken away. We have gone to the Supreme Court saying all the decision taken on August 5 including abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, bifurcation of J&K State into two UTs are unconstitutional, unilateral and cannot be sustained. The constitution of Delimitation Commission is fallout of the decision taken on August 5, 2019 challenged by us,” National Conference MP justice (retired) Hasnian Masoodi, earlier told Outlook. “Once we oppose August 5, 2019 decisions before Supreme Court. And ask the Supreme Court to strike down J&K Reorganisation Act, we normally say we have nothing to do with the delimitation commission, which is result of the decisions of August 5,” Mehdi said.
The newly formed Union Territory of J&K will be the only region in the country to undergo a delimitation exercise based on the population figures recorded in the 2011 census under a provision of J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019 passed by Parliament in August 2019, downgrading and bifurcating the State of J&K into two Union Territories – J&K (with a legislature) and Ladakh (without legislature). The J&K Assembly was dissolved in November 2018 and the region is under the President’s rule since then. The elections will be held in J&K after the Delimitation Commission completes its exercise.
Justifying its stance against establishing the Delimitation Commission for J&K, Justice Masoodi argued that he is petitioner against the government’s decision to revoke Article 370 and Article 35-A of the Constitution. “The Supreme Court prima facie found merit in my case. That is why the Supreme Court has referred the case to a bench of five judges, a constitutional bench. Though my petition was resisted by the Attorney General and the Solicitor General saying that the petition has fallout at the international level, the SC ignored it and referred it to a bench of five judge bench. It means the SC is satisfied that constitutional question is involved,” Masoodi said.
“The government shouldn’t have gone ahead with the Delimitation Commission for J&K. It should have waited for outcome of the petition before the Supreme Court. That is mandate of the constitutional propriety,” he added.
“Once the highest constitutional court of the country is seized of the matter and has decided to examine the constitutionality of the whole exercise including J&K Reorganisation Act, orders of abrogating Articles 370 and 35A, the government should have waited for the Supreme Court’s decision.
“See for example the Court tomorrow says your stand is right and we strike down J&K Reorganisation Act, with it our constitution, Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir is revived. And J&K Constitution prohibits the delimitation till 2026,” Masoodi says. “So there will be no delimitation at all,” he added.
“Whatever I say, it upholds the dignity of the Constitution of India. It is not beyond its preview and ambit. When we ask to strike down J&K Reorganisation Act, we say it because it doesn’t satisfy the spirit of the Constitution.”
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine