The Supreme Court said on Wednesday it will hear on November 29 a plea challenging the government’s decision to constitute a delimitation commission for redrawing the Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that it violated constitutional provisions.
A bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that he has to put some documents on record in the matter.
Mehta said he had a word with the secretary concerned who dealt with the issue.
The bench, while taking note of his submission, said the documents be filed within a week and posted the plea by two residents of Kashmir for hearing on November 29.
The apex court had on May 13 observed the petitioners have not challenged the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and therefore, pleadings concerning that were to be ignored.
It had noted in its order that the challenge really was to the exercise undertaken in respect of the delimitation pursuant to the notifications, including those of March 6, 2020 and March 3, 2021.
The top court had asked the respondents — the Centre, the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the Election Commission of India — to file counter affidavit within six weeks.
The counsel appearing for the two petitioners, Haji Abdul Gani Khan and Mohammad Ayub Mattoo, argued the delimitation exercise was carried out in contravention of the scheme of the Constitution and that alteration of boundaries and inclusion of extended areas should not have been done.
The plea has sought declaration that the increase in the number of seats from 107 to 114 (including 24 seats in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) in Jammu & Kashmir is ultra vires the constitutional provisions such as Articles 81, 82, 170, 330 and 332 and the statutory provisions, particularly under section 63 of the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
It said the last Delimitation Commission was set up on July 12, 2002 in exercise of powers conferred by section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 after the 2001 Census to carry out the exercise throughout the country.
The plea said the commission had issued guidelines and methodology for the delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies vide letter dated July 5, 2004 along with the constitutional and legal provisions.
“It clearly stated that the total number of existing seats in the Legislative Assemblies of all states, including UTs of the National Capital Region and Pondicherry, as fixed based on the 1971 census shall remain unaltered till the first census to be taken after the year 2026,” the plea said.
It sought to declare as unconstitutional the notification dated March 6, 2020 constituting the delimitation commission to take up delimitation in the UT of J&K and states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland by the Centre.
The plea has also challenged the consequential omission of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland from the process of delimitation vide notification dated March 3, 2021, claiming that it amounts to classification and violates Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution.
On March 6, 2020, the Union Government, Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department) had issued a notification in exercise of power under Section 3 of the Delimitation Act, 2002, constituting a Delimitation Commission, with former Supreme Court judge (Retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai as the chairperson.