By- Akshay Gurnani
The delimitation exercise in Nagaland is sought to be based on 2001 census data, which the petition claims violates the principle of the “last census rule.”
The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the Centre and others on a plea that assails the Delimitation process to be undertaken in the State of Nagaland
The Delimitation Process in Nagaland, which was halted for certain reasons earlier, was sought to be resumed by the authorities. In order to this effect was issued. The exercise of delimitation is planned to be conducted based on 2001 census data. However, this is one of the primary grounds on which the exercise has been challenged.
The Bench of CJI SA Bobde with Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notice on this plea yesterday and tagged it along with similar petitions challenging delimitation process concerning the State of Assam.
The plea filed by Chakhesang Public Organisation (CPO), an organisation of the Chakhesang (Naga) tribe, prays for a stay on the order passed in February this year which sought to resume the delimitation process based on 2001 census data. This order has been challenged as “arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and Section 8A of the Representation of People Act.
Delimitation exercise in Nagaland challenged before Supreme Court.
The petitioner further adds “the impugned order is ultra-vires the provisions of Article 82, 170, 371A of the Constitution of India. The impugned order rescinds the earlier order dated 8.2.2008 by which the delimitation exercise in the State of Nagaland was deferred.”
This “deferment order” passed in 2008 had cited the State’s internal disturbance as the reason to defer the process. It is claimed in the petition before the Supreme Court that these reasons remain unchanged even as on date. This is evident from the Centre’s move to invoke the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the State for six months and declaring it a “disturbed” area.
Moreover, the exercise is sought to be carried out based on 2001 data which is in clear violation of the principle of “last census rule” as stipulated under Articles 82 and 170 of the Constitution of India. Making a case for the delimitation exercise to be based on the latest census, the plea adds,
“Further, even S. 11 (4) of the State of Nagaland Act, 1962 stipulated that the delimitation exercise would be based on the latest census. The object of delimitation would best be served in case the last census i.e. 2011 census figures are made the basis for the delimitation exercise or the census of 2021 which is currently underway.”
The exercise will harm the unique demographic situation in Nagaland, the plea states. It adds that the tribal equilibrium of the region may be disturbed leading to the “abrogation of their constitutional rights.” The unique demography of the State is the reason the State enjoys a special Constitutional guarantee under Article 371A of the Constitution. Therefore, it is contended that the order seeking the resumption of the delimitation activity violates this Article as well. The plea states,
“The impugned order seeking resumption of delimitation exercise based on the 2001 census would certainly disturb the tribal equilibrium/ demarcations and lead to abrogating their constitutional rights. Thus, the impugned order is also ultra-vires Article 371A of the Constitution of India.”
The 2001 census data is largely flawed and the abnormalities marring this data have not been cured despite the Nagaland assembly passing a resolution against the data, it is stated. As such, the order for delimitation has now been challenged.