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Explained | President’s Order scraps its predecessor and amends Article 370

President Ram Nath Kovind.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The President’s notification of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 2019 of August 5 amends Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and scraps its 65-year-old predecessor, The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of May 14, 1954.

By junking the 1954 Order, the notification takes away the special rights and privileges enjoyed by the residents of Kashmir. It has effectively allowed the entire provisions of the Constitution, with all its amendments, exceptions and modifications, to apply to the area of Jammu and Kashmir. This is evident from the text of the August 5, 2019 notification. For one, the 2019 notification “supersedes” the 1954 Order. And two, it declares that “all the provisions of the Constitution, as amended from time to time, shall apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir”.

 

The August 5 notification has been issued under Article 370 of the Constitution. In short, the government has employed Article 370, which had once protected the 1954 Order giving special rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, to scrap the sexagenarian Order.

So far, the Parliament had only residuary powers of legislation in J&K. This included enacted of laws to prevent terror and secessionist activities, for taxation on foreign and inland travel and on communication. Now, the Centre has proposed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill of 2019, which says the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir would be administered/governed like the Union Territory of Puducherry.

 

The Bill proposes wide powers to the Lieutenant Governor of the proposed Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and makes it the "duty" of the Chief Minister of the Union Territory to “communicate” all administrative decisions and proposals of legislation with the LG. Moreover, all Central laws and State laws of J&K would apply to the new Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. Assets and liabilities of J&K and Ladakh would be apportioned on the recommendation of a Central Committee within a year. Employees of State public sector undertakings and autonomous bodies would continue in their posts for another year until their allocations are determined. The police and public order is to be with the Centre.

The tabling of the proposed Reorganisation Bill is also proof that the long reign of the 1954 Order has ended. The 1954 Order had introduced a proviso to Article 3, namely that “no Bill providing for increasing or diminishing the area of the State of Jammu and Kashmir or altering the name or boundary of that State shall be introduced in Parliament without the consent of the Legislature of that State". That power of the State Legislature to give prior consent does not exist anymore. This has provided a free hand to the Centre to table the Reorganisation Bill.

The 1954 Order had also brought into existence Article 35A. This Article gave the State Legislature of Jammu and Kashmir exclusive power to define classes of persons who are/shall be permanent residents of the State; to confer permanent residents special rights and privileges and impose restrictions upon other persons from outside the State; make laws and conditions for State government employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlement rights, scholarships and other forms of aid from the State government.

 

With the removal of the 1954 Order, the power of the State Legislature ceases to exist and Parliamentary laws, including that of reservation, would apply to Jammu and Kashmir as it does in other parts of the country. The government called this the end of “positive discrimination” and the closing of the “chasm” between residents of J&K and citizens of other parts of the country.

The removal of the 1954 Order further also negates a clause which was added to Article 352. The Order had mandated that no proclamation of Emergency on grounds “only of internal disturbance or imminent danger shall have effect” in the State unless with the concurrence of the State government.

The second part of the August 5, 2019 notification deals with the addition of a new clause to Article 367 which amends the proviso to clause (3) of 370. Article 367 deals with the applicability of the General Clauses Act 1897 to interpret the provisions of the Constitution,.

The August 5 notification amends the expression “Constituent Assembly”, contained in the proviso to clause (3) of Article 370, to mean “Legislative Assembly”.

Clause (3) of Article 370 gives the President power to end the special rights and privileges of the people of Jammu and Kashmir under the 1954 Order. However, the clause carries a rider. That is, the President would have to first get the consent of the Constituent Assembly of J&K before issuing such a notification. This rider or check on the President’s power was intended to give the people of the State a say in their own future.

Now, the Constituent Assembly has ceased to exist since 1956, when it was dissolved. The Assembly, at the time of its dissolution, had said nothing about the abrogation of Article 370. Consequently, Article 370, though it resides among the ‘temporary provisions’ of the Constitution, is deemed have become a permanent feature of the Constitution.

 

The August 5 notification has tided over this obstacle of a non-existent ‘Constituent Assembly’ by amending the expression in the proviso to ‘Legislative Assembly’. Ideally, any such amendment to the name of the ‘Constituent Assembly’ would require the assent of the Constituent Assembly itself. Besides, an amendment in Article 370 should have undergone the constitutional amendment procedure envisaged under Article 368 of the Constitution.

But the government can, on the other hand, argue that the amendment made in its August 5 notification only applies to Jammu and Kashmir and not the entire Dominion of India, and so, does not require a constitutional amendment. This point of contention may reach the Supreme Court, where several petitions on the constitutionality of Article 35A, and in consequence Article 370, are pending for adjudication.

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Printable version | Nov 21, 2020 9:53:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explained-presidents-order-scraps-its-predecessor-and-amends-article-370/article28826722.ece

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