After a three-year hiatus, the Election Commission (EC) has started the process of updating the electoral records in Jammu and Kashmir, a sign that elections may be held in the Valley following its delimitation exercise.
The Election Commission ordered a special summary revision (SSR) of picture electoral rolls on Wednesday, with October 1, 2022 serving as the cutoff date in Jammu and Kashmir. On August 30, the pre-revision operations will come to a close. In light of this, the EC has mandated that the SSR of the electoral rolls be finished by the end of October, according to J&K Chief Electoral Officer Hirdesh Kumar.
Days after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh suggested that Assembly elections in the Union Territory would take place by year’s end, the EC issued its directive.
The electoral roll modification is crucial since it is being done for the first time since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked. Prior to the abrogation, the only people who could vote in Jammu and Kashmir were its permanent residents, or “state subjects.” Additionally, the summary change would grant the displaced residents of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) their first opportunity to apply for voting privileges in the Assembly elections. They used to be able to participate in Assembly elections but not in parliamentary elections.
According to the directive, all states and Union Territories revise their electoral rolls in the latter half of each year with January 1 of the next year being the qualifying date. The decree states that by doing this, it will be possible to publish the electoral rolls in their whole during the first week of January of the following year.
The order states, “However, after SSR, 2019, this annual revision of the electoral roll could not be performed in Jammu and Kashmir due to various administrative reasons.” The final delineated constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir were announced on May 5 while the delimitation exercise for those constituencies was still ongoing.
According to the judgement, newly eligible voters were unable to register themselves on the electoral roster because Jammu and Kashmir did not undertake an electoral roll revision for the previous three years. “In light of the foregoing, the exercise of Special Summary Revision with reference to the next qualifying date is required to be carried out without further delay in order to update the electoral roll on the basis of newly delimited constituencies, ensuring that all newly eligible young electors can have the opportunity to get themselves enrolled. The commission has begun pre-revision work in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir in light of the aforementioned background, according to the order.
The amended electoral rolls must be published by October 31 in order to meet the deadline established by the EC. According to the letter, claims and objections may be submitted within a month, up until September 30, following the release of integrated draught electoral rolls on September 1. It states that by October 15 the claims would be resolved.
The commission has set September 25 as the deadline for the evaluation of health indicators, gaining EC approval for final publication of the electoral rolls, database updating, and supplement printing. On October 31, the updated electoral rolls would be published in their entirety.
Although there is a field on the registration form where the Aadhaar number must be entered, the letter states that “no application for inclusion of name in electoral roll shall be denied and no entries in electoral roll shall be deleted for inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number.”
The Delimitation Commission suggested seven more constituencies — six for Jammu and one for Kashmir — last month when it finalised its decision for Jammu and Kashmir, bringing the total number of seats in the UT from 83 to 90. As a result, there will be 47 seats instead of the previous 46 in the Kashmir Valley and 43 seats in the Jammu Division.
Politically significant, the panel’s recommendations have since drawn condemnation from the Valley’s dominant parties. These parties have argued that the Jammu area breaches the population requirement because it has more seats proportionate to its population than the Kashmir Valley. According to the allocation of seats based on the 2011 census, Jammu, with a population of 44%, will receive a share of seats equal to 48%, whereas Kashmir, with a population of 56%, will receive a share of seats equal to just 52%. Previously, Jammu held 44.5% of the seats, while Kashmir held 55.4% of the seats.
In the month following Rajiv Kumar’s appointment as Chief Election Commissioner, the Election Commission also had its first meeting regarding the conduct of Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. On May 23, Hirdesh Kumar, the chief election officer for J&K, and high-ranking representatives of Nirvachan Sadan met under Kumar’s chairmanship.
The order states that “four qualifying dates, namely, January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1 are available in the law as a result of amendment to Section 14 of the Representation of the People Act by Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021…and corresponding changes in the Registration of Electors Rule, 1960 as notified on 17 June, 2022,” adding that “…the commission has decided to order SSR, 2022 with respect to October 1, 2022 which is the next qualifying date for preparat