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Govt To Increase Lok Sabha Strength? Know Constitutional Provisions Under Article 81

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New Delhi: A heated debate has errupted after since Congress leader Manish Tewari in a Twitter post claimed that there is a proposal to increase the strength of Lok Sabha to 1000 or more.  

Taking to his social media on Sunday, Manish Tewari wrote, “I am reliably informed by Parliamentary colleagues in BJP that there is a proposal to increase the strength of Lok Sabha to 1000 or more before 2024. New Parliament Chamber being constructed as a 1000 seater. Before this is done there should be a serious public consultation.”

“Job of an MP is to make laws for the country. The role was emasculated by 10th schedule of the Indian Constitution. To take care of development imperatives we have 73rd 74th Constitutional Amendment topped by legislative assemblies. If the proposal to increase LS to 1000 is true, it will have implications”, tweeted Tewari.

In a followup post, Manish Tewari further tweeted, “Do not yet know correct or otherwise, proposal/idea includes 1/3 rd Reservation for women. Good move but why 1/3rd out of 1000 or more why not 543 that CP Smt Sonia Gandhi has been fighting for over two decades. Women are 50 percent but the parliament of 1000 has own implications.”

As of now, the Parliament of India has a sanctioned strength of 543 plus two members from the Anglo Indian community.

Well, it might be noted that the discussion over increasing the strength of Lok Sabha in not new. Many dignitaries, including former President Pranab Mukherjee in the past have advocated an increase in the enhancement of Lok Sabha seats to 1,000. 

While it remains uncertain whether the government will expand Lok Sabha seats, here we discuss the constitutional process to be undertaken in case of expansion. 

Provisions under Article 81 

Article 81 of the Indian constitution talks about the provisions for changing the size of Lok Sabha. While the maximum number of seats in the Lok Sabha can be 545, the number of these seats can be changed on the basis of the 2021 census. However, there can be no change in this till 2026. 

Article 81(3) is also very important in this context as it states that the change in the number of Lok Sabha seats can happen only after 2026.

It is worth mentioning that the number of Lok Sabha constituencies in 1952 was 489. It was extended twice or thrice after amending Article 81 and Article 81(3).  In 1976, through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment, it was decided that the census of 1971 would be the basis for deciding the number of Lok Sabha seats and this situation would continue till 2001. It was expected that the number of Lok Sabha seats would increase after 2001. But in 2003, Parliament decided to postpone it for the time being.

Through the 84th Amendment to the Constitution, it was decided that the 1971 census would be the basis for deciding the number of Lok Sabha seats. The reason to do so was the imbalance of population between South Indian and North Indian states. 

It was discussed that the South Indian states, which seriously implement population control, will suffer the loss of the new delimitation. Their representation in the Lok Sabha will decrease while the seats in North India will increase.

The population balance has not yet been achieved. But it is true that the 1971 census cannot be kept forever as the basis for deciding the Lok Sabha seats. In such a situation, if the government decides to increase the number of Lok Sabha seats, it will have to amend Article 81(3) of the Constitution. This amendment can be passed by a simple majority of the total number of members in both the Houses of Parliament and a two-thirds majority of the voting members.

Necessary To Set Up Delimitation Commission

the government will have to constitute a Delimitation Commission in order to decide the number of Lok Sabha seats. According to the Delimitation Act 2002, it can be presided over by a sitting or former judge of the Supreme Court. After a detailed study, the Delimitation Commission will submit a report on total number of Lok Sabha seats and number of seats in each state. 

One must note that the government will have to bring a Constitution Amendment Bill in the Parliament. Article 81 (1) will have to be changed so that the number of Lok Sabha seats can be increased. Thereafter, state wise re-allocation of seats can be done as per the provisions of the Delimitation Act.

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