Idea of One Person One Vote: Constitutional question for Parliamentary election Recently, Madras High Court while hearing a Public Interest Litigation has raised suo motu question with respect to the rights of the State of Tamil Nadu and other similar states. The issue was whether "successful implementation of family planning programmes" by various states can become the tool to take away...
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Idea of One Person One Vote: Constitutional question for Parliamentary election
Recently, Madras High Court while hearing a Public Interest Litigation has raised suo motu question with respect to the rights of the State of Tamil Nadu and other similar states. The issue was whether "successful implementation of family planning programmes" by various states can become the tool to take away the "political representations in the Parliament"? According to the questions raised by the bench various states have the apprehension that if one person, one vote policy be implemented by the year 2026 then several states with low populations would lose their present share and states which could not control population growth would have more representation in Parliament. For example, states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh would get more seats, whereas the southern states, which are controlling their population growth would get a lesser number of Parliamentary constituencies, thereby lowering the political power of the States.
What Madras High Court Ordered
The bench of Justice N.Kirubakaran & Justice B.Pugalendhi in the said order discussed that post-1967 general election the people of Tamil Nadu lost two seats from 41 to 39 due to successfully implementing a national programme for family planning. The bench also discussed with respect to the claim of the petitioner that why can't the Central Government pay a sum of Rs.5600 crores as compensation to Tamil Nadu or give additional representation in the Rajya Sabha for reducing two seats since the 1967 election. Then, the hon'ble bench cited the incident when Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government lost the no-confidence motion by one vote in 1999. This episode is the testamentary evidence that the importance of one vote in a parliamentary democracy can never be undermined. Further, the Court has sought an explanation from the Centre within four weeks.
What Constitution says and how the argument is flawed
Constitution of India, under article 81(1)(a) clearly states that the Composition of the House of the People shall lie Subject to the provisions of Article 331, "the House of the People shall consist of five hundred and thirty members". And further, Article 81(2) categorically lays down the condition that with respect to Article 81(1)(a) each State shall be allotted "a number of seats in the House of the People in such manner that the ratio between that number and the population of the State is, so far as practicable, the same for all States"; and (b) "each State shall be divided into territorial constituencies in such manner that the ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it is, so far as practicable, the same throughout the State" However, this condition of population shall not be applicable in the states where the population does not exceed six million.
84th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2001 laid down a restriction with respect to the readjustment of parliamentary constituencies till 2026 under Article 82 of the Constitution of India, 1950. The original idea was that after the completion of each census, the allocation of seats in the House of the People to the States and the division of each State into territorial constituencies shall be readjusted by the Parliament and the delimitation commission. However, the 1971 census has been kept as a criterion for the allocation of seats in the House of the People to the States. Now, this can be modified only after 2026.
On the basis of the prevailing law, the merits of the Madras High Court order where they emphasizing to ignore the population as a condition for determining the seats in 2026 or in future are constitutionally flawed arguments. This could lead to a greater enmity between the states and its legally and constitutionally not possible. This could even lead to anarchy in the country because framers of the Indian Constitution came with the idea to readjust the parliamentary constituencies based on population.
Central Vista & New Parliament Building
Central Vista redevelopment project has been proposed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India and the work is in progress with slight modifications with permission from the Supreme Court of India. According to this project, the new building of Parliament is also proposed with an expanded number of sitting arrangements. Even an opposition party leader dated 25 July 2021 tweeted that on the basis of a reliable source from BJP "there is a proposal to increase the strength of Lok Sabha to 1000 or more before 2024". Additionally, the central vista project is expected to be completed by 2024 with a new Parliament building to further strengthen the idea to increase the seats.
There is no doubt in admitting the fact that in the last 74 years of independence, the stem of democratic federalism has helped in maintaining the unity and diversity in this country. Despite the differences in ethnicity, linguistic basis, cultural diversity, and variations in religion this country stands tall due to its constitutional ideals and principles. According to the 2011 Census, Uttar Pradesh has a fertility rate of 2.74, while the rate in Bihar is 3.41 which is the highest. It has been found that the population of the southern states is growing more slowly than the states in northern India. In the year 1963, Delimitation Commissions were appointed as per Article 82 of the Constitution of India and in the last 50 years seats has not been increased. It's high time that the commission must act according to the law of the land and on the ideals of the Constitution. If population will be ignored as a criterion, then the whole idea of representation and "one person, one vote" will be blemished. It's high time to remove the cap of 'frozen figures' which are kept at a halt despite the constitutional provision for years. The distribution of seats to various states is bound to change with the formation of new states over the due course of time. Balance with respect to the federal ideals, cultural and linguistic diversity must be taken care of. However, the time has come when India must act towards increasing the number of Parliamentarians.