Supreme Court bats for reviving delimitation commission for proportional representation of SC/STs in state assemblies

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the Central government must consider reconstitution of the Delimitation Commission to ensure proportional representation of the communities designated as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra asked the Centre to discuss this idea with the Chief Election Commissioner and provide a working solution by Thursday, November 23.

Noting that no exercise of delimitation has been carried out since 2008, the Court said,

“This is a matter which would warrant serious and concerted consideration by the Centre.”

The Court added that it was conscious it cannot direct Parliament to enact a law, and that the Union government “must seriously consider if Delimitation Commission should be reconstituted to ensure justice to those communities who have been designated as SC, ST.”

The Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking proportionate representation of Scheduled Tribes in the legislative assemblies of West Bengal and Sikkim.

Disregarding the Centre’s argument that the Delimitation Commission cannot be constituted till the 2026 census is carried out, the Court said that Article 371(F) can be a route in respect of Sikkim. The Article provides special legal provisions in respect of Sikkim.

The Court also opined that there can be no doubt that the claim of Limbu and Tamang communities – which have been recognized as STs – for the grant of proportional representation has a constitutional basis.

In 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs had initiated the exercise to increase seats in the Sikkim Legislative Assembly from 32 to 40 to provide reservations for the two tribes, the Court noted. However, it added that no action has been taken since.

The Court noted that Article 327 empowers Parliament to make provisions in relation to elections including the delimitation of constituencies. On Article 325, the Court said the Election Commission (EC) has broad power in relation to control and superintendence of elections.

The EC earlier told the Court that it does not have the power in respect of readjustment of seats, which would require amendments to the Representation of the People Act.

The petitioners had argued otherwise, saying that failure to recognise proportional representation of the Limbu and Tamang tribes was an omission which can be corrected by the EC. However, the Court did not agree with the submission.

The Court will hear the matter again on Thursday.

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