Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said Article 370 can turn into an instrument of “oppression and discrimination” against Indian citizens and it is incorrect to perceive the debate about Article 370 as a toss up between the secular vs. non-secular.
“Article 370 has nothing to do with secularism. My own study on the subject has revealed a very interesting dimension as to how Article 370 can turn into an instrument of oppression and discrimination against Indian citizens,” he said in a post on social networking site Facebook.
BJP’s prime ministerial candidates Narendra Modi's suggestion that the benefits of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir should be debated has caused a political storm, while the National Conference government in Jammu and Kashmir has disagreed with Mr. Modi, the BJP itself has been defending its stand of seeking abrogation of the law.
Detailing the provisions of Article 370, Mr. Jaitely questioned provisions like Article 35A, which he claimed denies residents of the State protection under various Articles, including Article 14 (equality), Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on basis of religion, caste, race or place of birth), Article 16 (Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and reservations), the fundamental rights under Article 19 including the right to free speech and the right to life and liberty under Article 21.
Putting forth the example of migrants from Pakistan who were settled in Jammu and Kashmir at the time of Partition but have not been conferred the status of 'State subjects' and have no rights in the state they live in, Mr. Jaitely said Article 35A which was notified by the President of India as an order and not a legislation pursuant to provisions of Article 370 (1)(d) of the Constitution.
“Should a provision like Article 35A which exists only because of Article 370 have place in any civilised society? It is oppressive against citizens of India. It is discriminatory and violative of fundamental rights. Article 35A was inserted in 1954. On a bare reading, it violates the basic structure of the Constitution. I wonder if its constitutional validity will be challenged at some point of time," he wrote.