The petitioners prayed the court to declare that the increase in the number of Assembly seats is beyond constitutional provisions.
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea challenging the conduct of the delimitation exercise for redrawing the Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir.
While dismissing the petition filed by two Kashmiris, a bench of Justices SK Kaul and AS Oka said the dismissal of the petition should not be construed as giving imprimatur to the decisions taken in relation to Article 370.
The petition filed by senior advocate Ravi Shankar Jandhyala said that the delimitation exercise was in violation of the Constitution of India especially Article 170(3) which had frozen delimitation till the first census after the year 2026.
The counsel further argued that the delimitation exercise was being carried out in the teeth of the Constitution and its statutory provisions.
Advocate Jandhyala further argued that no further delimitation exercise could have been undertaken after the delimitation order of 2008. He said all delimitation-related exercises can be carried out only by the Election Commission and not the Delimitation Commission.
Countering his arguments, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said that the 2019 Reorganisation Act intended the first delimitation to be undertaken by a delimitation commission and not the Election Commission, which is busy holding elections throughout the country.
The counsel for the Election Commission said that “ample opportunity” was given for raising objections against the exercise, which was “not utilized and the delimitation order has now attained the force of law”.
The plea had sought the declaration that the increase in the number of seats from 107 to 114 (including 24 seats in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir) is ultra-vires constitutional provisions and statutory provisions, particularly under section 63 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
While reacting to the dismissal of the plea, J&K People Democratic Party (JKPDP) spokesperson Mohit Bhan said “We as a party have maintained from day one that the delimitation commission is a unilateral process and the people’s will and people’s representatives had no say in the entire process.”
“We hope the court will expedite the process of its hearing on plea against the removal of Article 370 and 35A keeping in mind people’s will and constitutional guarantees,” he said.