–Report by Arun Bhattacharya
The honourable Supreme Court of India in HAJI ABDUL GANI KHAN & ANR. V UNION OF INDIA & ORS. on Monday 13th of January, 2023 observed that “A Constitutional Court cannot casually interfere with legislation made by a competent Legislature” while dismissing the writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
The legality of the action of forming a Delimitation Commission for the rearrangement of constituencies in the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh was challenged.
On 5th of August, 2019 a Presidential Order was issued under the powers provided in clause (1) of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution with the objective of application of the Constitution along with its amendments in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Application of all provisions of Article 370 was discontinued by a subsequent Presidential declaration.
The petitioners’ primary objection was to the increased number of Assembly seats and the subsequent challenge was that the constitution of the Delimitation Commission was in complete violation of the order passed by the Election Commission of India in 2008 (Delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Order,2008). The petitioners mainly relied on Article 170 of the Indian Constitution which restrained any rearrangement of assembly seats before the first census after the year 2026. Certain other violations by Articles 330,332, 82 and 83 have also contended which may be read in the original judgment but the essential focus was on the violation of the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of India due to the noncompliance with the order of 2008. Further, sections 59 to 63 were also challenged on the ground of contradiction.
The Union of India represented by the learned Solicitor General highlighted the delay since the delimitation order had already been passed and the said order of the Delimitation Commission was operative from 20th March 2022 and that such an order by a Delimitation commission stands beyond the purview of court’s review jurisdiction according to Section 10 (2). The validity of sections 60 and 62 was highlighted because the Election Commission had already notified the Government of India of the non-necessity of its interference with the rearrangement of constituencies since the same had already been directed to the Delimitation Commission by a letter proving the sections’ non-contradictory nature.
The honourable Supreme Court observed a lack of specificity of allegations and since the grounds on which the said Act’s constitutionality may be verified is not mentioned, it fell short of gaining an in-depth reply from the respondent as well as it did not provide the honourable court with enough room for a constitutionality check. The honourable court denied the validity check of the J&K Reorganisation Act and the Presidential Order of 2019 since they were not at all challenged by the petitioners. The Supreme Court observed the legislative action of constituting the Delimitation Commission in compliance with Articles 3, 4 and 239A and pointed out that the argument on Article 170 does not stand since it dealt with the Legislature of a State and not a Union territory. Applying similar legal analogies the sections 60 and 62 of the J&K Reorganisation Act, the apex court completely refuted the question of legality raised about the exercise of delimitation conducted by the Delimitation Commission.
On the question of the legality of the Order of 6th March 2020 the apex court weighed on the fact that statutory interpretation must be by the legislative intent and that a practical approach must be adopted to “make it workable”.
Considering all other legal points and dogmas the apex court stated that the petition lacked merits and that it was a ‘vague attempt’ to portray the exercise of delimitation as an illegal affair. Pointing out the non-bearing of this judgment’s observations on other matters which are subject to judicial scrutiny, the court intentionally refrained from weighing on the validity of the exercise of Parliamentary powers and dismissed this petition.
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