Salient features of the 31st Amendment of the Constitution

The 31st Amendment of the Indian Constitution came to be by the Constitution (31st Amendment Act) of 1973. The major reason behind this Constitutional Amendment was to increase the seats in the Lok Sabha. The composition of the House of the People, namely the Lok Sabha is dealt with under Article 81 of the Indian Constitution. According to Article 81, the number of seats in the Lok Sabha should not exceed 550 and there should be no more than 20 seats reserved for the representatives of Union Territories. This Article also stated that the number of seats reserved for a State should be in proportion to the population of the State. Only this would bring about equity in representation of the people and ensure that power is not unequally divided or in bias of any certain group, community or even State. All States should be equally represented. This rationale is applicable throughout except in the case of States with less than 60 lakh citizens as following this rule would mean that they do not have a representative and this goes against what democracy stands for. All States are entitled to representation irrespective of the number of people inhabiting them. So, despite having a miniscule population, States with less than 60 lakh inhabitants have one representative. Prior to the Constitutional Amendment that took place in 1973, the number of seats in the Lok Sabha was 525. Owing to this Amendment, another 20 Lok Sabha seats were allowed making the number of seats overall in the Lok Sabha to 545. The foremost motivation behind this step was the rising population of the country. This was brought to light by the Census of 1971. The Constitutional Amendment of 1931 simultaneously brought about a decrease in the number of representatives from Union Territories to 20. Prior to this, there were 25 seats reserved for the representatives hailing from any of the Union Territories. 

Apart from the increase in the number of Lok Sabha seats and decrease in seats for representatives of Union Territories, the 31st Amendment of the Constitution held a portion of Article 330 of the Indian Constitution invalid. Prior to this Amendment, Article 330, which provides for reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha for people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes included the tribal areas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland as well. However, post this Amendment in 1973, reservation for people belonging to Schedule tribes and hailing from these regions was held inapplicable given the scant population of the tribes in these areas. In addition to this, the Amendment of 1973 also held Article 332 of the Indian Constitution partly invalid.  Article 332 provides for the reservation of seats for people belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes for the Legislative Assemblies. Like Article 331, post this Amendment, people belonging to Scheduled tribes and hailing from the tribal areas of Assam, Nagaland and Meghalaya were excluded from being considered for the reservation. The reason for the same was attributed to their scant population thus giving them an unfair advantage over others. 

The 31st Amendment of the Constitution is hailed as one of the more impactful Amendments as it led to the number of representatives from both the houses being the same. That said, the number of representatives of either house, that is, the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha is not a fixed number. They may be increased or decreased if the situation requires. The government has the authority to take a call on the same and do the needful. Such changes are usually brought about by the government when they believe that the inhabitants of a certain State are not represented fairly at either of the houses. They are also instigated by a change in demography. The process of bringing about these changes is long drawn. They usually have to be post the recommendation of the Delimitation Commission. The Delimitation Commission, also known as Boundary Commission of India is a body established by the Government under the Delimitation Commission Act. This body is given the task of redrawing boundaries of the Lok Sabha constituencies based on recently conducted census’ so they are updated and proportional to the rising population. The Commission is the final authority in this matter and cannot be challenged, not even by a Court of Law. Their recommendations have to be followed verbatim. The Delimitation Commission of India was formed in the year 1951. This Commission is appointed by the President of India and works with the Election Commission of India.

REFERENCES

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