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Salient Features of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019

-Vihaan Kumar

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act1 which was passed by the two houses of the Parliament received the President’s assent on 9th August, 2019 which made it effective from 31st October, 2019. The Act was a controversial yet brave step by the central government of India in a path leading to a more unified India. Political distress has always followed its way into the valley, with the fall of the Mehbooba Mufti’s led PDP-BJP alliance in the state leading to imposition of Governor’s rule which later turned into a Presidential rule. The Act, on the face of it, reorganizes the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir with 5 out of the 6 Lok Sabha seats, and Ladakh having the remaining one. The Act furthers the scope of Article 239A of the Indian Constitution according to which the president would appoint a lieutenant governor for the administration of the union territory whereas the legislative assembly so formed would make laws for the matters enshrined under the state list which is present explicitly in the Seventh schedule of the Indian Constitution except ‘public order’ and ‘police’ which will be under direct control of the union government. The enactment of the Act was preceded by the presentation of the bill by the ministry of home affairs in the Rajya Sabha and subsequently in the Lok Sabha. This bill was also preceded by a presidential order under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which ceased the said Article to be operative in the valley. The debate still continues with opposite sides taking stances as to the constitutional validity of such presidential order, as sub-section (3) of the Article provides for necessary recommendation by the president to the Constituent Assembly in order to issue such a notification while exercising his powers.

The other side claims that since the Constituent Assembly which was formed back then in 1954 is not subsiding in the current date and it was encoded keeping in mind the temporary nature of this whole Article, the word Constituent Assembly should be replaced with Legislative assembly which, due to being currently dissolved, gives the right to the Governor of the State for his recommendations which were duly taken while issuing such order by the President, making the base of the enactment of this Act as constitutionally valid. Following this Act, the government of India further enacted the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Order which was published in the official gazette of India on 31st March, 2020. This new law allow citizens of other states, a chance to become the permanent residents of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh hereby giving any person who has resided in the region for at least 15 years; or has studied there for a period of 7 years and appeared in examinations of the classes of 10th or 12th in an educational institution located in the territory, the right to obtain domicile status which would further help the person in getting reservations in government jobs or such opportunities. The legislative assembly of the Jammu and Kashmir would now have 107 seats out of which 24 seats would remain vacant on account of them being under the occupation of Pakistan, making it a positive step by identifying these areas as our official regions being in illegal capture by alien forces, thus making India’s foreign policy stand clear on this issue. The new Act establishes the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir by making it common for territorial jurisdiction, both for Ladakh as well as Jammu and Kashmir. An Advocate General would also be provided to the government to provide legal advice in the matters before the court against it.

The Act also abolishes the Legislative Council of the state of Jammu and Kashmir thereby making all the pending bills lapsed in the council. There is also a provision of the appointment of advisory committees by the central government which would submit their reports from time to time to the lieutenant governor, who must act on these recommendations within 30 days of their submission. The Act is a positive step in the path of developing the region with its more unified presence with rest of the country. The provisions of the new Act looks very promising, which when rightly implemented, can do wonders.

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