The Supreme Court has issued notice on a plea challenging the promulgation of the Presidential Order of February 28 through which the earlier February 8, 2008 Notification, deferring the process of delimitation for the State of Assam, has been rescinded and the process of delimitation of the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies of the state has been decided to be resumed.
In issuing the notice, the bench headed by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde heard Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal for the petitioners.
Petitioners Brelitha Marak and Bhanu Jay Rabha have submitted that the decision to conduct the pending process of delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies, is not only a hasty decision but stands contrary to the very idea behind conducting delimitation.
"Foremost concern that the petitioners herein seek to impress upon this Hon'ble Court is that while vide the aforesaid S.O. 283(E) (of February, 2008) the process of delimiting the constituencies, in the State of Assam, had been deferred, the same is being resumed almost 10 years later and so far, in absence of an amendment to the Delimitation Act, 2002, will be conducted on the basis of the population figures as old as of 2001 Census", it is sought to be advanced.
It is their case that this would frustrate the very purpose of conducting delimitation, which has historically been based on the most recent census figures. It contended that not only, an older Census data from 2001 is proposed to be used as the basis for delimitation in the State of Assam, the haste is evident inasmuch as the most recent population figures will be available from the Census of 2021, the preparations of which are already underway.
The plea, drawn and filed by Advocates Mustafa Khaddam Hussain and Ibad Mushtaq, asserts that the reasons stated in notification no. S.O.
283(E), for deferring the exercise of delimitation for the State of Assam, are by and large still in existence and the present decision for resuming the exercise of delimitation in the State is devoid of any reasons justifying the change in circumstances.
"As the process of delimitation in Assam, in 2008, had evoked strong opposition from all concerned in the State with serious apprehension of breakdown of public order in the State of Assam, it was considered that the issues in regard to delimitation of constituencies in the State of Assam were very serious and sensitive in nature and may give rise to break down of public order on account of serious law and order situation in different districts and more particularly, in the areas which are disturbed areas or very sensitive areas", it is argued.
Advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi would point out, on behalf of the petitioners, that the law and order situation in Assam had grown so out of control that the entire State of Assam was declared as a "disturbed area" for the purposes of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 with effect from August 28, 2019, for a period of six months. "In an unusual coincidence this period of six months had come to an end on the very day the impugned order for delimitation was issued", it is ventured.
It is submitted that one of the reasons in deferring the delimitation exercise earlier, as per the 2008 Notification, was the preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
It is brought to the Court's attention that while the NRC, Assam is being prepared under the orders of the Apex Court itself, it has not yet been finalised. After publication of NRC on August 31 last year, the process with regard to more than 19 lakh excluded persons remains pending. Further, the identity cards are yet to be issued to the persons who are included. "Therefore, the exercise of delimitation could not have been resumed now as the NRC, Assam is not yet concluded", it urged.
Finally, it is pleaded that the aforesaid reasons that had prevailed during the previous decision for deferment of the delimitation process are still existing and therefore the decision to conduct a fresh delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies in Assam and to rescind the aforesaid 2008 Notification is premature and arbitrary apart from being clearly hasty and opposed to the very purpose of delimitation.
The Ministry of Law and Justice, through Notification dated March 6, has announced the constitution of the Delimitation Commission for the purpose of delimiting assembly and parliamentary constituencies in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
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