Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ, RS Reddy, AS Bopanna, JJ has sought responses from the Centre and the Assam government on a plea challenging the exercise of delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in the state, saying it is proposed to be conducted on the basis of “stale figures” of Census 2001.
The plea, filed by All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), has sought the court’s direction to defer the delimitation exercise until the ill-effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is over. It said that Census 2011 has already been conducted while Census 2021 is underway.
The plea has alleged that decision to conduct the pending process of delimitation in Assam “is not only an arbitrary and hasty decision but stands contrary to the very idea behind conducting delimitation, having proposed to be conducted not on the basis of the population figures obtained from the most recent Census but rather on the basis of stale figures of 2001 Census.”
The plea alleged that ever since introduction of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 till the enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the state has seen widespread violent protests. It said the situation in Assam had grown so out of control that the entire state was declared as a “disturbed area” for the purposes of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 with effect from August 28 last year for a period of six months.
It said subsequently, the Assam government had declared the entire state as “disturbed area” up to six months beyond February 28 this year, unless withdrawn earlier. The plea has also sought a direction that delimitation in the state be deferred until the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise is completed in the state and Assam is relived form “disturbed area” by the competent authority.
“The delimitation proposed to be carried will change the constituencies and will have an impact on the voting rights and preferences of large number of voters and candidates,”
It claimed that as the data relied upon for the proposed delimitation is outdated and atmosphere in the state at present is not conducive for the exercise, “it is feared that many citizens may loose their right to vote if the exercise is carried out in the present scenario”.
“Unless the data is up-to-date, delimitation of constituencies and redrawing them will cause a large number of voters to be left out,”
The bench issued notices to the Centre and the state government on the petition which has sought quashing of this year’s February 28 order which “rescinded” an earlier notification of February 8, 2008 that had deferred the process of delimitation for Assam. It also tagged the petition of AIUDF with an earlier plea in which it had had issued notice to the Centre and the Assam government.
The earlier petition had sought that delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in the state be deferred until the completion of Census 2021. The plea, filed by two Assam residents, had also sought quashing of this year’s February 28 order which “rescinded” an earlier notification of February 2008 that had deferred the delimitation process in the state.