Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Tuesday said that the delimitation exercise and National Register of Citizens (NRC) process are “different issues” and there was no “legal bar” on carrying them out separately, reported The Indian Express.
This comes a day after several Opposition parties in Assam submitted memorandums to the Election Commission of India (ECI) urging the poll body to hold the delimitation exercise until the conclusion of the NRC process.
CEC Rajiv Kumar and two commissioners of the ECI, Anup Chandra Pandey and Arun Goel, were on a three-day visit to Assam since Sunday to hold discussions with various stakeholders on the delimitation exercise to be based on the 2001 Census.
“NRC and delimitation are different issues and there are no legal bar in carrying out [the] two processes separately and simultaneously; there is no legal sequencing,” Kumar said.
“These are two legally distinct activities and figure under different legislative frameworks. So we are well within the process of defining this based on the Census of 2001,” he added.
“The trigger for us is the rescindment of the deferment by the Honourable President on February 20, 2020,” Kumar further said.
The CEC said that the using 2001 census as the basis of the exercise was in line with the provisions of Article 170 of the Constitution.
“There are two aspects to this exercise. The readjustment of existing constituencies after every Census is provided for in Article 170. The existing boundaries will be changed based on the first Census after 2026. Until then, wherever it is remaining — for some reason, if that readjustment is not taking place, and the last delimitation took place on the basis of 1971 — the Article (170) says it will be on the basis of the 2001 Census,” Kumar said.
The ECI had announced on December 27 last year a plan to carry out delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in Assam based on the 2001 Census. The last exercise was carried out in 1976. The exercise was deferred in Assam on multiple occasions because political parties had opposed it, citing the NRC process.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress on Tuesday had boycotted the hearing on the delimitation exercise alleging that it had not received any response from the poll body on its allegation that the state cabinet had a “mala fide intention” in merging four districts with others.