New Delhi: The Congress party has claimed that the Narendra Modi government has decided to increase the total strength of the Lok Sabha to 1,000.
On 25 July, Congress MP Manish Tewari tweeted that the new Parliament Chamber was being constructed with 1,000 seats.
Calling for “serious public consultation” before this is done, he wrote, “I am reliably informed by Parliamentary colleagues in @BJP4India that there is a proposal to increase strength of Lok Sabha to 1000 or more before 2024. New Parliament Chamber being constructed as a 1000 seater.”
The current strength of the Lok Sabha is 543 members, out of which 530 represent states while the remaining represent the Union Territories. Can this number be increased? ThePrint takes a look at Constitutional provisions.
How are states represented in Lok Sabha?
According to Article 81 of the Constitution, the Lok Sabha can have a maximum of 530 members representing the states and 20 members representing the Union Territories.
In addition to this, Article 331 allowed the President to nominate two members of the Anglo-Indian community to the Lok Sabha. However, via a Constitutional amendment notified in January 2020, the provision for nomination of Anglo-Indians was done away with.
Equal representation of the states is ensured through a system of “proportional representation” by the formula prescribed in clause 2 of Article 81. It says that every state will be allowed the number of seats in the Lok Sabha in such a manner that the ratio between the number of seats and the population of the state is the same for all states, “so far as practicable”.
As for smaller states with a population of less than 6 million, this proportion does not apply and they are allotted at least one seat, even if their population-to-seat-ratio does not make them eligible for it.
Article 82 of the Constitution provides readjustment of allocation of Lok Sabha seats to the states as well as state legislative assembly constituencies after completion of every census — essentially to represent the changes in population in the states. The process is called delimitation.
Why the figures are ‘frozen’
However, due to the fact that the representation of the states depended on their population, the ones that focused on population control measures ran the risk of being under-represented in the Parliament.
During the Emergency, the infamous 42nd Constitutional amendment — popularly called ‘Indira’s Constitution’ or ‘mini-Constitution’ — then added a proviso to Article 81(3). This proviso said that the reference to “the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published shall, until the relevant figures for the first census taken after the year 2000 have been published, be construed as a reference to the 1971 census”.
The amendment also added a similar proviso in Article 82, freezing the readjustment exercise till 2000.
This effectively froze the population figures in accordance with the 1971 census, which was 54.8 crore with a registered electorate of 27.4 crore, for the purpose of determining the representation of various states and Union territories in the Lok Sabha.
The 84th Constitutional amendment in 2001 extended these deadlines from 2000 to 2026. This, it said, was being done “keeping in view the progress of family planning programmes in different parts of the country…as part of the National Population Policy strategy”.
A delimitation exercise did take place after this. It began in July 2002 and ended in May 2008, and was conducted on the basis of the 2001 census. It readjusted all parliamentary and assembly constituencies in the country. However, it could not increase the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha or the assemblies due to the freeze imposed in 2001.
How has the strength been changed before?
The strength of the Lok Sabha has been changed in the past through various amendments to the Constitution. For instance, the original Article 81 fixed the maximum strength of the Lok Sabha at 500 members, and so the first House had 497 members in 1952.
After 1952, the numbers of seats allocated to various states in the Lok Sabha as well as its total strength changed due to various delimitation exercises as well as reorganisation of states.
So, for instance, the original Article 81 said that states would be divided, grouped or formed into constituencies to ensure that there shall be at least one member for every 750,000 of the population and not more than one member for every 500,000 of the population. The second Constitutional amendment changed these figures to 850,000 and 650,000 respectively, according to the findings of the 1951 census.
Then through the seventh Constitutional amendment in 1956, Article 81 was overhauled after the reorganisation of states, which divided the country into 14 states and six Union territories. By the 31st amendment to the Constitution in 1973, the seats in Lok Sabha were increased from 500 to 525.
The allocation of seats to various states also changed with the formation of new states over the period of time — sometimes changing the total strength of the House, while other times leaving it untouched.
A few changes to the composition of the Lok Sabha did occur despite the freeze effected by the 1976 and 2001 amendments as well. For instance, when new states, like Uttarakhand, were formed.
Over- and under-representation
However, it has often been pointed out that by 2031, the population figures on the basis of which parliamentary seats are currently allotted to states will be six decades old.
Experts have also pointed out the over- and under-representation that this leads to. For instance, it was calculated that according to the 2001 census, Uttar Pradesh should have been allotted 7 more seats while Tamil Nadu should have had 7 fewer Lok Sabha seats.
Similar calculations based on the 2011 census were also made, revealing what researchers called a “sizable shift” in political power. It showed that if those numbers were taken into account, four north Indian states — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — should collectively be allotted 22 more seats, while four southern states — Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana and Tamil Nadu — would have had to lose out on 17 seats altogether.
However, increasing the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha has been viewed positively in the past, with experts opining that this would address the issue of each Indian MPs representing larger constituencies.
Back in December 2019, former President Pranab Mukherjee had also called for an increase in the number of Lok Sabha seats to 1,000, and for a corresponding increase in the Rajya Sabha’s strength as well. He had argued that India has a “disproportionately large size” of electorate for elected representatives.
Mukherjee had also pointed out the increase in population since the 1971 census. He had asserted that the number of voters per Lok Sabha Constituency as per the 2011 census has risen to more than 16 lakh people, and had reportedly asked, “With an average of 16-18 lakh people being represented by one member of the Parliament, how can we expect the representatives to be in touch with the electors?”
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)