Srinagar: Strongly objecting to the Centre’s position in Supreme Court last month, when it sought a “larger debate” on Article 35-A, National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah said that the state’s accession to the Indian Union and its special status are “two sides of the same coin” and “if there is debate on (the legality) of the Article, you will have to debate the accession itself”.
Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution is an article that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents. It is added to the Constitution through a Presidential Order, i.e., The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 – issued by the President of India, “in exercise of the powers conferred by” clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution, with the concurrence of the Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The former chief minister said that NC patron Farooq Abdullah will hold an informal meeting on Monday with the Opposition leaders in J&K to evolve a joint response to prevent any move to ‘tamper’ with the state’s special status.
The meeting comes in wake of a petition filed by a non-governmental organisation seeking abrogation of the constitutional provision that defines special privileges enjoyed by permanent residents of the state in matters related to employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlements and scholarships.
The Article was extended to J&K through the ‘Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order issued by President Rajendra Prasad on May 14, 1954. It was specifically devised to grant protection to state subject laws that had already been defined under the Maharaja’s rule and notified in 1927 and 1932.
Confirming tomorrow’s meeting, Congress chief Mir told Greater Kashmir, daily newspaper based in Srinagar, that “many issues confronting the state would be discussed.” Hakeem Yasin also confirmed his invitation to the meeting
“We will be discussing the current situation and the issues confronting the state,” he said.
The Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition filed by a NGO seeking abrogation of the constitutional provision, has referred the matter to a three-judge bench last month and reportedly set a six-week deadline for its final disposal.
The development followed after the government of India didn’t file a counter affidavit on the petition, saying the petition has raised “very sensitive” questions that required a “larger debate.” The stand taken by New Delhi is contrary to PDP-led state government’s stand which has filed an affidavit in the apex court seeking dismissal of the petition.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti herself issued a stern warning to government of India last month over any ‘tinkering with Article 35-A’, saying there would not be nobody left to hoist the tri-colour (Indian Flag) in Kashmir if it is done.
Legal experts have already cautioned that if the constitutional provision (Article 35-A) is scrapped, “J&K will lose all the special privileges including the state subject law, right to property, right to employment, and right to settlement.”