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Political parties react to Centre's decision to extend 2 constitutional amendments to J&K

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NC, PDP mull legal recourse; PC, CPI(M) say, Governor has no moral or political authority to take constitutional decisions

Srinagar, Mar 01: The National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party said Friday that they were mulling moving court against the Centre's decision to extend the 77th and 103rd Amendments of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir in the absence of an elected government in the state.

The reactions come after the Union government on Thursday gave its nod to the promulgation of an ordinance for giving reservation benefits to SCs and STs in Jammu and Kashmir by amending a clause of the contentious Article 370, which gives special status to the state.

"It will serve the purpose of application of relevant provisions of the Constitution of India, as amended through the Constitution (77th Amendment) Act, 1995 and Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 for Jammu and Kashmir, by issuing the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Amendment Order, 2019 by the President under clause (1) of Article 370," Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said.

In a series of tweets, NC leader Omar Abdullah said, "Article 370 makes concurrence of Government of Jammu and Kashmir a condition precedent for extension of a Constitutional provision not falling under three subjects."

Abdullah said his party will consult eminent lawyers to explore how the decision can be challenged in the court of law.

"The Government means an elected government. President cannot seek concurrence of Governor who is a representative or agent of President. Same will apply even where only consent is required," he tweeted.

"It is for this reason that @JKNC_ will consult eminent lawyers tomorrow (Friday) to see how best we can challenge this blatantly unconstitutional order in court," he added.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the Centre using the Governor's office for extending the amendments to Jammu and Kashmir seemed to be a "sinister" move aimed at "disempowering" the state.

"Ostensibly, using the Governor's office seems to be a sinister move to further disempower the state. This will not be tolerated & the entire state will fight against this criminal and illegal move of GoI," she said in a tweet.

She questioned the intentions of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre asking why people of Kashmir were being pushed to the wall.

"Why is GoI adamant on adding fuel to the fire and letting the situation slip out of control? Why push Kashmiris to the wall? PDP is willing to work with like minded parties and people of the state to fight this battle tooth and nail in the courts," Mufti said in another tweet.

The official Twitter handle of the PDP said the Union cabinet's decision was in "contravention" of the spirit of Indian Constitution's Article 370.

"Governor administration, which by design is interim arrangement, is stretching its mandate a bit too far. The concurrence of an elected, not nominated, government is a must for any amendment to the 1954 presidential order and thereby is in contravention to the spirit Art 370," the party said.

According to press release, Mehbooba Mufti said PDP will now allow such “constitutional vandalism” to take place.

Mehbooba added that PDP doesn’t oppose the idea of reservation but the method the Governor administration has adopted is very dangerous and it is a clear subversion of letter and spirit of law.

“It is the President who is right now ruling the state and his own representative cannot take the role of the state cabinet in the matter of making constitutional changes. This is a fraud on the constitution and on the people of the state,” Mehbooba said.

She added that PDP will not allow this “constitutional vandalism to deprive the state of the last remnants autonomy and constitutional guarantees”.

Mehbooba said that while the Government of India should be working to empower the state more, it is taking away whatever is left with it.

“The BJP government at the centre has set the alarms for the entire country. It was the unfortunate incident of violence in Jammu and Kashmir which brought the sub-continent to the threshold of a destructive war. You (BJP) are further pushing the people of Jammu and Kashmir into a corner while their constitutional rights are being trampled which is being guaranteed by the constitution of India. Government of India must put on hold any such plans that it might still be having,” said the PDP president.

Meanwhile, Peoples Conference Friday said it is firmly objected to the Union Cabinet’s decision to amend the Constitution Order, 1954 by way of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Amendment Order, 2019 while CPI(M) said such decisions should have been left to the elected representatives who have the mandate of the people.

“Amending Constitutional provisions in absence of an elected government will not only have bearing on J&K’s constitutional relationship with India but also further the trust deficit between people and Centre,” PC said.

In a statement, PC general secretary Imran Reza Ansari said that the Union Cabinet should desist from making amendments to Constitution Order, 1954 on recommendations of the Governor.

“The Governor is not an elected representative and should desist from taking constitutional decisions, which is the prerogative of an elected government alone. Governor rule is a temporary measure to carry on the day-to-day routine functions of the government. In no way, should the Governor’s recommendation be basis for amending the constitutional provisions, which permanently affects the constitutional relationship of the State of J&K with the Union,” he added.

Governor Satya Pal Malik recently recommended application of not only the Constitution 103rd Amendment Act, 2019 to the State of J&K, but also recommended for application of the Constitution 77th Amendment Act, 1995 on basis of which the Union Cabinet passed the Amendment Order.

Ansari said that amending the constitutional provisions applicable to the State by the Union Cabinet, without approval by an elected government, is a dangerous trend, which is bound to have serious repercussions so far as constitutional relationship of the State with the Union is concerned.

There is no dispute in Jammu and Kashmir regarding granting reservation in promotions for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and reservation for economically-weaker sections of the society and nobody is against it, said CPI9M) leader M Y Tarigami. “However, the concurrence for extending these amendments was given by the Governor Satya Pal Malik, the Government of India’s own nominee, after the state administrative council (SAC) approved the proposal earlier this month. The Governor administration doesn’t have moral or political authority to take such constitutional decisions.”

Tarigami said such decisions should have been left to the elected representatives who have the mandate of people.

The mandate to take constitutional decisions lies with the State Assembly. There is already lot of mistrust and chaos in the state and such decisions taken by the Governor administration won’t have positive impact on the overall situation, he said.

“Isn't it a reality that extensive autonomy guaranteed by the Government of India to J&K under Article 370, has been sufficiently eroded and made hollow? The extent of the misuse of Article 370 itself to encroach on the state's powers can be seen from one of the measures taken in July 1986.

“The President of India made an order under Article 370 extending to the state Article 249 of the constitution in order to empower parliament to legislate on a matter in the state list on the strength of a Rajya Sabha resolution,” Tarigami pointed out.

“This sort of overriding the state list can't be done with regard to other states. At any rate issuing constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) amendment order while there is no elected government for state of Jammu and Kashmir in office is totally undemocratic and against letter and spirit of Article 370. This is part of systematic approach of the Union government for diluting the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir state under the constitution. By passing successive orders they have made Article 370 an empty shell only,” Tarigami said.

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