The Supreme Court Wednesday sought responses from the Centre and the Assam government on a plea seeking that delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in the state be deferred until the completion of Census 2021.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde agreed to hear the plea seeking quashing of this year's February 28 order which "rescinded" an earlier notification of February 8, 2008 that had deferred the process of delimitation for Assam.
The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, issued notices to the Centre, Assam government and the delimitation commission and asked them to file their responses on the plea which has challenged the delimitation process based on 2001 Census.
The petition, filed through advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, has sought a direction to the authorities to defer the process of delimitation until the completion of Census 2021 "so that the most recent population figures are available for this exercise".
"The decision to conduct the pending process of delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies, is not only an arbitrary and hasty decision but stands contrary to the very idea behind conducting delimitation, having proposed to be conducted not on the basis of the population figures obtained from the most recent census but rather on the basis of stale figures of 2001 census," the plea said.
The petition, filed by two Assam residents, has claimed that present delimitation exercise is sought to be conducted on the basis of census 2001 despite the fact that census 2011 has already been conducted.
It alleged that the February 28 this year order is liable to be quashed as it is violative of Constitutional provisions related to equality before law and the right to life and freedom of speech and expression.
It said that the process of delimitation was earlier deferred in the state in light of the aggravated law and order situation in Assam.
The plea said that due to opposition over Citizenship (Amendment) Act and apprehensions related to publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the situation had so aggravated that the entire state was declared as a "disturbed area" for a period of six months with effect from August 28, 2019.
The plea said "the very purpose of conducting delimitation is to ascertain an equal number of division of the electorates in the various assembly and parliamentary constituencies and the same has been historically based on the population figures as obtained from the most recent census."
It said that one of the reasons for earlier deferring delimitation process in Assam was the preparation of NRC.
"While the results of NRC had been published by the State Co-ordinator, NRC, Assam on August 31, 2019, the process with regard to more than 19 lakh persons, excluded therefrom, is underway," it said, adding that it would be more practical to defer the present delimitation process until the finalisation of NRC as well as 2021 census.