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Listing of reserved seats
Don’t cross the line, SC tells poll panel
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 14
The Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Election Commission for overstepping its powers in notifying reserved constituencies and warned the panel to confine itself to the constitutionally mandated position in the future after it admitted its mistake.

The court said the law related to delimitation, especially pertaining to fixing the number of SC and ST constituencies, should not be loosely interpreted, as it has to be done strictly under the mandate of Article 332 of the Constitution.

Article 332(3) has clearly laid down that the number of SC and ST seats whether for parliamentary or state assemblies should be strictly according to the percentage of their population, a Bench of Justices A.K. Mathur and Markandey Katju held.

“The commission shall confine itself to the mandate of the provisions of the Constitution and will not be swayed by any other consideration…. The mandate of the Constitution is supreme and the EC has no scope to go beyond it,” the court held.

The ruling came on a public interest litigation by some citizens from Uttarakhand, led by Anand Singh Kanwar, belonging to Dharchula assembly constituency, which was wrongly notified as ST constituency in 2001 after the new state came into existence.

Though the total percentage of ST population in the state was 2.1 per cent, which meant that in the House of 70 there should be only two constituencies reserved for the community, the EC had fixed their number at three.

Besides Dharchula, the other two ST seats were Chakrata and Nanak Matta.

Though the delimitation commission in its order of December 28 last year had reverted the status of Dharchula to general constituency, the EC in its affidavit tried to justify its decision even though it admitted its mistake.

The EC had stated that its order of November 5, 2001 that declaring it as a ST seat was taken while keeping in view the special requirements of development of tribal areas. The panel also stated that there was a strong demand for increase of representation of tribals.

Lambasting the EC for taking unto itself those powers that it was not entrusted with, the apex court said “it should be made clear that the mandate of Article 332(3) should always be kept in mind. The Article mandates that the reservation must be made in proportion to the population of the SCs and STs in the state”.

Expressing the hope that the EC in future would confine itself to the constitutionally mandated position, the court said only this should be the paramount consideration for the panel, not any other factors.

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