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The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday has issued notice in a plea challenging the promulgation of the Presidential Order on 28th February 2020 through which it has been decided to resume the process of delimitation of the Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies for the State of Assam.

The case was heard by three judges bench comprising of CJI S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna & Justice Hrishikesh Roy via video-conferencing.

Kapil Sibal, Senior Advocate for petitioners submitted that the decision to conduct the pending process of delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies, is not only arbitrary and hasty decision but stands contrary to the very idea behind conducting delimitation inasmuch as the present delimitation exercise is sought to be conducted on the basis of Census 2001, while Census 2011 has already been conducted and Census 2021 is underway, apart from also being unjustified with regard to the conclusion of the NRC preparation for the State of Assam, one of the reasons why the same was deferred in 2008.

The petitioners further mentioned that the impugned order is liable to be quashed being in violation of Article 14, 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which guarantee equality, the right to life and freedom of speech and expression respectively, firstly for the reason that the impugned order seeks to resume an exercise of delimitation, ideally to be conducted on the most recent census, but here it is based on stale and old figures of Census 2001 and secondly, since the reasons as contained in the notification, are still prevailing and the impugned order fails to provide any reasonable basis for the change in circumstances, as existed prior to deferment of delimitation in the State of Assam.

Facts so mentioned in the petition are that the process of delimitation in Assam had evoked strong opposition from all concerned in the State, with various organisations strongly opposing the delimitation exercise, which had given apprehensions with regard to break down of public order in the State of Assam. It was stated that “issues in regard to delimitation of constituencies in the State of Assam are 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“.

Thereafter, it was notified through petition that “strong objections” had been lodged by “the legislators, parliamentarians, all political parties, Panchayats and public leaders on the proposed delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies” and the State Government was “of the view that the delimitation process should be kept in abeyance and has requested for the maintenance of status quo in the interest of peaceful coexistence of people of the State and its territorial integrity and the maintenance of public order.”.

Following grounds were raised in the petition: –

“That as the NRC is being prepared on the basis of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, it must also be pointed out that the said provision, added to the Citizenship Act in 1985, is also challenged before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, which has referred the challenge to Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, to a larger bench.

The State of Assam, ever since the introduction of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 till the enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 on 12.12.2019, has seen widespread and violent protests, bandhs, curfews etc. leading to loss of not only public and private property but also of the precious lives of Indian Citizens.

That as the situation in Assam, due to opposition of CAA as well as apprehensions related to the publication of the National Register of Citizens, Assam, had so aggravated, 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 28.08.2019, for a period of six months”.

Lastly, it was said that the Ministry of Law and Justice, notified, through Notification No. S.O. 1015(E), 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.

-India Legal Bureau

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