‘Vague’, ‘arbitrary’ and ‘discriminatory’, says petition against the ongoing delimitation exercise in Assam in the Supreme Court

Ten opposition leaders have filed a petition against the delimitation exercise in Assam before the Supreme Court. It is contended that the Election Commission of India has not followed constitutional procedure in the exercise. Section 8A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 has also been challenged for being arbitrary, opaque and discriminatory

TODAY, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the proposed delimitation exercise by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in Assam.

Ten petitioners belonging to various opposition parties in Assam have challenged the methodology adopted by the ECI for the proposed exercise.

These include three members of local Assamese parties: Lurinjyoti Gogoi of the Assam Jatiya Parishad, Akhil Gogoi of the Raijor Dal and Diganta Konwar of the Anchalik Gana Morcha.

Two members of the Indian National Congress (INC) Debabrata Saikia and Rokibul Hussain, and Ghanakanta Chutia of the Trinamool Congress are also among the petitioners.

Manoranjan Talukdar of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)], Munin Mahanta of Communist Party of India (CPI) and Swarna Hazarika (Rashtriya Janata Dal) are the other petitioners.

The petition contends that “population density or populous-ness has no role to play in the process of delimitation”, yet the ECI has adopted a methodology of “taking different average assembly sizes for different districts” for the delimitation process.

The petition states that while the Constitution of India envisages an exercise whereby constituencies are to be readjusted so as to ensure that all constituencies are comprised of an almost equal population, the Election Commission, by relying on 2001 census figures, has created three categories of districts and has adopted a different yardstick for the three categories resulting in possible deviation of up to 33 percent between the population of largest and smallest constituency.

The petitioners have also challenged Section 8A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 as per which the Election Commission is purporting to exercise its power. 

They contend that the delimitation for the rest of the country has been conducted by a high-powered body, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, and a commission for Jammu and Kashmir was formed on similar lines.

However, the provision of Section 8A discriminates against Assam and three other Northeastern states for which the Election Commission has been prescribed as the authority to conduct delimitation.

For this reason, the petition calls this provision “arbitrary”, “opaque” and “discriminatory towards Assam”. 

The petition has also highlighted certain statements of the Chief Minister of Assam, who has publicly stated that the present exercise will be beneficial to one party, i.e., the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while being damaging to other opposition parties.

Such statements, the petition submits, while not inspiring any confidence in the exercise, also give rise to apprehensions that the ECI exercise will not be independent and will be heavily dictated by the ruling regime.

The petition has been filed through advocate-on-record Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi.

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