President's notification clears decks for J&K delimitation

NEW DELHI: The President of India, in a notification issued on Thursday, ordered the suspension of the operation of Section 63 of the J&K Reorganization Act of 2019, which will pave the way for the delimitation of the assembly and parliamentary constituencies in the successor of J&K.

The section establishes that, despite the other provisions of the Law that describe the delimitation process that will be carried out in the J&K UT, it would not be necessary to readjust the division of the UT into parliamentary assemblies and constituencies until after the census of 2031. This is now suspended.

Section 63 of the J&K Reorganization Act, as reported for the first time by TOI on October 1, 2019, was seen as a contradiction with the previous provisions (Sections 59 to 61) of the Act, which deals with the delimitation of the constituencies in UT of J&K that will take place after the designation day (October 31, 2019). Noting the flaw in the wording of Section 63, which ruled out the readjustment of the parliamentary constituencies/assemblies in UT of J&K until the figures for the first census were published after 2026, an Electoral Commission official had indicated that said section denies the purpose of Section 59 to 61.

On Thursday, the officer said that by suspending the operation of Section 63, previous sections 59 through 62 have been released. However, he added that the other anomaly in the J&K Reorganization Law, between Section 60 that entrusts the Electoral Commission with the delimitation work and Section 62 that entrusts the same responsibility to the Delimitation Commission that will be constituted under of the Delimitation Law, 2002, has not yet been addressed.

According to government sources, after the EC refused to take over the delimitation process in view of the previous anomaly, the government was considering establishing a Delimitation Commission under Section 62 of the J&K Reorganization Law. Said Commission of Delimitation would be directed by a judge of the Supreme Court in functions or retired and would have the CEC or the electoral commissioner nominated by the CEC, as the other member.

Nothing is known yet about the creation of a J&K UT Delimitation Commission.

Meanwhile, a notification issued on Thursday revoked the president's rule imposed in the state of J&K, even when another introduced the central rule for an indefinite period, in which the president will perform all the functions of the UT government of J&K and enjoy all the powers that LG exercises. The powers of the UT legislature of J&K would be exercised under the authority of Parliament.

The notification cited a report received from the J&K governor that the J&K UT administration could not be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the J&K Constitution and Reorganization Act, to invoke Section 73 to prevent any constitutional void and administrative and due administration of the UT of J&K.

In another notification issued on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry announced the omission of references to permanent residents or hereditary state subjects of the state laws applicable to the two new UTs.