Explained: How states are split into seats

Headline : Explained: How states are split into seats

Details :

Context of the topic:

  • The bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh calls for delimitation of their electoral constituencies.
  • While the government has not formally notified the Election Commission yet, the EC has held internal discussions on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, particularly its provisions on delimitation.

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Theme of the Topic: The topic discusses about Delimitation in India and need of delimitation in state of Jammu and Kashmir.

About: Delimitation in India

  • Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body.
  • Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in population.
  • In this process, the number of seats allocated to different states in Lok Sabha and the total number seats in a Legislative Assembly may also change.
  • Objective:
    • To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • Aim:
    • Fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.

Which body carries out Delimitation?

  • Delimitation is carried out by an independent Delimitation Commission a Boundary Commission.
  • The Delimitation Commission is composed of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioners.
  • The Delimitation Commission in India is a high power body whose orders have the force of law and cannot be called in question before any court.
  • These orders come into force on a date to be specified by the President of India in this behalf.
  • The copies of its orders are laid before the House of the People and the State Legislative Assembly concerned, but no modifications are permissible therein by them.

How is delimitation carried out?

  • Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census. After the act comes in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  • The Constitution mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as practicable, the same for all states
  • On the basis of the latest Census, the Commission determines the number and boundaries of constituencies in a way that the population of all seats is the same as far as possible.
  • The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large.
  • In case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
  • The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published for public feedback, objections and suggestions and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  • The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

History of Delimitation in India:

  • The first delimitation exercise was carried out in 1950-51 by the President (with the help of the Election Commission), as the Constitution at that time was silent on who should undertake the division of states into Lok Sabha seats.
  • This delimitation was temporary as the Constitution mandated redrawing of boundaries after every Census.
  • Hence, another delimitation was due after the 1951 Census.
  • The Election Commission advised the government that all future exercises should be carried out by an independent commission. This suggestion was accepted and the Delimitation Commission Act was enacted in 1952.
  • Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
  • The last Delimitation Commission was setup in 2002 in India. It was constituted under the chairmanship of Justice Kuldeep Singh, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Note: There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.

Why was there no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses?

  • The provision of allotting Lok Sabha seats to a state in accordance with the population of the state defeats the population control policy of the country and the southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
  • To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.


  • Despite the ban, there were a few occasions that called for readjustment in the number of Parliament and Assembly seats allocated to a state.
  • These include statehood attained by Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in 1986, the creation of a Legislative Assembly for the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and creation of new states such as Uttarakhand.

Note: Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the 2001 Census, another amendment postponed this until 2026, hoping a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.

Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir Lok Sabha Seats

  • Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Lok Sabha seats is governed by the Indian Constitution.
  • The last Delimitation Commission of 2002 was not entrusted with delimitation of Lok Sabha’s seats. Hence, J&K parliamentary seats remain as delimited on the basis of the 1971 Census.

Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly seats:

  • Earlier (before the abrogation of special status), delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly seats was governed separately by the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.
  • Although the delimitation provisions of the J&K Constitution and the J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957, are similar to those of the Indian Constitution and Delimitation Acts, they mandate a separate Delimitation Commission for J&K.
  • In actual practice, the same central Delimitation Commission set up for other states was adopted by J&K in 1963 and 1973.

Note: While the amendment of 1976 to the Indian Constitution suspended delimitation in the rest of the country till 2001, no corresponding amendment was made to the J&K Constitution. Hence, unlike the rest of the country, the Assembly seats of J&K were delimited based on the 1981 Census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.

  • There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 Census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze on fresh delimitation until 2026. This freeze was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Jammu and Kashmir Assembly seats:

  • The J&K Assembly has 87 seats i.e. 46 in Kashmir, 37 in Jammu and 4 in Ladakh.
  • Twenty-four seats are reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019,

  • Under this law, delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in J&K UT will be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
  • Unlike Ladakh, the Act provides for an elected legislative assembly and council of ministers headed by the chief minister for the UT of J&K.
  • The Act also states that in the next delimitation exercise, the number of Assembly seats will increase from 107 to 114. These 114 seats include 24 seats reserved for representatives from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
  • In the state of J&K, the cabinet had a strength of 24 members including the chief minister, cabinet ministers and junior ministers.
    • But in a major decision, the council of ministers in the UT of J&K shall not consist of more than 10% of the total number of members in the legislative assembly, with the chief minister at the head to aid and advise the lieutenant-governor.
    • The new arrangement implies that the total number of ministers in the cabinet including the chief minister shall not exceed 10.
  • With the reorganisation of the state, the J&K Legislative Council, also known as Upper House or House of Elders, has been abolished.
  • The J&K high court shall be common for both UTs.
  • At least 106 new Central laws have become applicable to the UT.
    • Some of them include the National Human Rights Commission Act, Central Information Act, the Enemy Property Act and The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
  • Under the reorganisation Act, various laws related to owning land and property in the UT of J&K have been amended to omit different provisions.
  • As per provisions of the Act, at least 153 state laws have been repealed under the reorganisation Act, along with 11 under the Governor’s Act.

Section : Polity & Governance