New Delhi, Nov 2 : The Supreme Court on Monday granted the “last chance” to the Central, Assam, and Nagaland governments and others to file their replies on a clutch of petitions raising issues connected with the delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in these states.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, at the outset, sought the presence of counsel for Nagaland, as the petitioners sought a stay on the delimitation process.
The petitioners had emphasised that though the notice was issued in the matter earlier, but no replies have been filed so far and the delimitation exercise is in progress.
The Chief Justice said that a stay is not possible without a reply from the Centre and state governments, as he sought the presence of counsel for Nagaland and also asked for the reply in the matter.
As advocate K.N. Balagopal joined the proceedings through video conferencing, the Chief Justice said: “You cannot sit over the matter like this. You will have to file a reply, otherwise we will adjudicate it without a reply.”
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for one of the petitioners, submitted: “This matter is urgent. Notice was issued in May.”
After a brief hearing in the matter, the top court, in its order, said: “At the request of learned counsel appearing for the respondents/states, as a last chance, two weeks’ time is granted to the respondent states to file reply affidavit. Put up thereafter.”
The Chief Justice emphasised that if the replies are not filed within two weeks, the court may proceed in the matter. Some petitions have raised the issue regarding the process of delimitation in Nagaland and Manipur.
A plea filed by Assam’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) said the decision to conduct the pending process of delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies, is not only arbitrary and hasty decision, but stands contrary to the very idea behind conducting delimitation inasmuch as the present delimitation exercise is sought to be conducted on the basis of Census 2001, while Census 2011 has already been conducted and Census 2021 is underway.
The petition sought quashing of February 28 order this year which rescinded the February 8, 2008 notification that had deferred the process of delimitation in Assam. The petitioners have urged the apex court to defer the delimitation exercise until the Covid-19 pandemic is over.
The petitioners have argued that one of the reasons for earlier deferring delimitation process in Assam was the preparation of National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“While the results of NRC had been published by the State Coordinator, NRC, Assam on August 31, 2019, the process with regard to more than 19 lakh persons, excluded therefrom, is underway,” said a plea. The petitioners have sought deferring of the present delimitation process until the finalisation of the NRC as well as 2021 census.
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