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  • The delimitation of constituencies for the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies is to be carried out on the basis of the first Census after 2026.
  • The 2021 Census was originally postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently due to delays on the part of the Central government.

What is Delimitation?

  • Delimitation refers to fixing the number of seats and boundaries of territorial constituencies for the Lok Sabha and Legislative assemblies.
  • It includes determining seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
  • Article 82 and 170 of the Constitution mandate readjustment of seats after each Census, performed by the Delimitation Commission.
  • Delimitation involves establishing boundaries for electoral constituencies based on population changes within a country.
  • The process aims to ensure fair representation by dividing geographical areas into constituencies.

Constitutional Requirement:

  • Democracy necessitates representation based on the principle of 'one citizen-one vote-one value'.
  • The number of Lok Sabha seats was frozen as per the 1971 Census to promote population control measures.
  • Seats were redistributed after the 2001 Census, and will be readjusted post-2026 Census.

Independence of the Delimitation Commission

  • The Delimitation Commission operates autonomously, free from executive influence.
  • Its decisions are final and cannot be challenged in court, preventing delays in elections.
  • Once presented, the orders of the Commission to the Lok Sabha or State Legislative Assembly remain unalterable.

Objectives of Delimitation

  • Equitable representation for all segments of the population, adhering to the principle of "One Vote One Value."
  • Preventing any single political party from gaining an unfair advantage through constituency delineation.

Composition of the Delimitation Commission

  • Appointed by the President of India in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.
  • Members include retired Supreme Court judges, the Chief Election Commissioner, and State Election Commissioners.

Process of Delimitation

  • Initiated through the enactment of a Delimitation Act by Parliament after each Census.
  • States also undergo division into territorial constituencies according to this Act.
  • The Union government establishes a Delimitation Commission to carry out the delineation.

Historical Context

  • Delimitation exercises have occurred in various years, notably in 1950-51, 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002.
  • Exceptions exist, such as after the Censuses of 1981 and 1991.

Issues Surrounding Delimitation

  • Concerns arise regarding states with lax population control policies potentially gaining an undue number of parliamentary seats.
  • Discrepancies occur when delimitation is based on a recent census while the total number of seats remains determined by an older census.
  • Constitutional limits on the number of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats may result in increasing populations being represented by a single representative.
  • Uneven population growth across states poses challenges in delimitation.
  • Options for delimitation based on projected 2026 population are debated, with implications on representation and federal principles.

International Practices:

  • In the U.S., seats in the House of Representatives are capped and redistributed after each Census.
  • The EU Parliament follows 'degressive proportionality', increasing seats with population growth.

Ideal Solution:

  • Reconciling democratic and federal principles is crucial.
  • Maintaining the current number of Lok Sabha seats while adjusting state-level representation ensures continuity and upholds federalism.
  • Strengthening local governance through empowerment of panchayats and municipalities is essential for grassroots democracy.