The Delimitation Commission has proposed an overhaul of assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir in its draft report which has been handed over to five associate members for their suggestions, officials said on Saturday.
The voluminous report has proposed redrawing of the Anantnag Parliamentary seat by including Rajouri and Poonch from the Jammu region, besides carrying out massive changes in the Kashmir division, they said.
Many of the assembly seats in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state have vanished that including Habba Kadal, a seat that was seen as a traditional bastion of migrant Kashmiri pandits.
Barring Khanyar, Sonwar, and Hazratbal assembly seats of Srinagar district, all other seats have been redrawn and merged with new assembly seats being carved out like Channapora and Srinagar South, the officials said.
Voters from Habba Kadal will now be part of at least three assembly seats in the new proposed report, they said.
Similarly, Budgam district, which had five assembly seats, was redrawn and merged with Baramulla Parliamentary constituency besides splitting some of the areas and carving out new assembly seats like Kunzer in North Kashmir.
Sangrama seat in North Kashmir has been merged with other assembly seats, they said.
Pulwama, Tral, and some areas of Shopian, which formed part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, will now be part of the Srinagar Parliamentary seat.
The report was sent to the five associate members Farooq Abdullah, Hasnain Masoodi, and Akbar Lone (Lok Sabha MPs from the National Conference) and Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore (BJP MPs) on Friday.
They have been asked to submit their views by February 14 after which the report would be put in the public domain, the officials added.
The report has ignored the objections filed by the National Conference on December 31 last year rejecting the proposal to increase six Assembly seats in the Jammu region as against just one in the Kashmir division.
The Commission headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Desai with Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra and state election commission KK Sharma was set up on March 6, 2020, and was granted an extension of a year on March 6, 2021, which will come to an end next month.
The Delimitation Commission has held two meetings with the Associate Members on February 18 and December 20 last year. While the first meeting was boycotted by the three National Conference MPs, they attended the second meeting.
The NC had vociferously opposed the draft proposals which will increase the number of Assembly seats in the Jammu division from 37 to 43 and in Kashmir from 46 to 47.
The party, in its objections, had termed the Reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir Act as “Constitutionally suspect” and questioned the recommendations of the delimitation panel especially its rationale behind increasing six seats in the Jammu division as against one in the Kashmir region.
In its reply to the Commission, the NC argued that there were question marks over the Constitutional propriety of the panel especially when the party along with several others had approached the Supreme Court challenging the action of August 5, 2019, by the Centre of revoking the special status and bifurcating the erstwhile state in two Union territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The party said the Commission has been formed because of the Reorganisation Act of Jammu and Kashmir 2019 which is under judicial scrutiny and the Supreme Court is yet to deliver its order.
The panel’s recommendations are born out of an Act which is a “Constitutionally suspect” law, it said.
According to legal parlance, if any Act is under judicial custody and the apex court is seized of the matter, it can be termed as a Constitutionally suspect law.
The party said the principle of Constitution propriety demands that such a law should not be implemented and all the limbs of the state and their institutions should, out of deference to the top constitutional court, desist from implementing such law till its constitutionality is determined.
The National Conference also challenged the theory of Commission that the seats had to be extended in the Jammu region because of difficult terrains and geographically remote areas.
It highlighted that several areas in Kashmir remain cut-off for months and are equally arduous when it comes to the remoteness of an area.
The party highlighted several areas in Anantnag, Kupwara, Baramulla, Kulgam, and Uri in Kashmir division to compare remoteness and tough terrain.
The major objection of the party was about the formula that had been adopted by the Commission by throwing the concept of the population to the wind and said Kashmir division, despite having a higher number of people compared to Jammu, got only one seat.
After the completion of the delimitation exercise, the number of Assembly seats in Jammu and Kashmir will go up from 83 to 90.
In the erstwhile assembly of Jammu and Kashmir state, Kashmir had 46 seats, Jammu 37, and Ladakh four.