Delimitation panel to seek nomination for Pandits to JK Assembly

The Delimitation Commission is likely to recommend representation for Kashmiri Pandits as nominated members in the Jammu & Kashmir assembly, in its final report to the Centre. The Commission completes its term on May 6.

ET gathers that in the report, likely to be submitted next week, the panel is readying to recommend that amendments be made in relevant laws to allow nomination of Kashmiri Pandits to the assembly with full voting rights.

The panel is likely to acknowledge that the Pandits have been unable to participate fully in J&K due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’. However, they continue to be part of the electoral and political system which is also recognised by the Election Commission of India which facilitates Kashmiri Pandit voters to cast their vote in J&K elections from other centres like Delhi, it has been discussed.

On the basis of representations received from the community and discussions held with them as part of the Delimitation consultations, the panel chaired by Retd Supreme Court Judge Ranjana Desai and with Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra on board, is learnt to have concluded that due representation must be given in the assembly to Kashmiri Pandits.

The basis of such a representation will be based not on religion or caste but on them being active political stakeholders for generations — an issue acknowledged by courts in the case of the Sangha constituency reserved in Sikkim for Buddhist monks alone.

Instead of an elected member option, the panel, however, is learnt to have found the nominated member option more feasible. It has precedence as the J&K assembly has so far allowed nomination of two women members.

A similar provision is also seen in Puducherry assembly where the Centre nominates members to three seats in the UT, in addition to the 30 elected seats — a process upheld by the Madras High Court.

The panel’s recommendation to the government is likely to open a door for allowing representation to Kashmiri Pandits in the electoral space in J&K — a long held demand of the community.

Kashmiri Pandit groups had taken the matter to the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office seeking amendments to the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 to allow for reservation for them.

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