Editor's note: With Jammu and Kashmir under Governor's Rule for the eighth time, Firstpost will run a series of reported pieces, analytical articles and commentary to track the progress of events.
Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra has drawn flak for keeping the state Assembly under suspended animation. This action sends a signal that the state is not in a position to hold elections within six months. It can also provide an impetus to efforts by political parties to poach MLAs from rivals to stake claim for government formation.
Recently, former chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah suggested that the Assembly should be dissolved, which would make it incumbent on the government to hold elections within six months. Before a meeting with Vohra, Abdullah said that by keeping the Assembly in suspended animation, the BJP would try and resort to horse-trading. This came in reaction to a comment by former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta that the BJP was 'working on something' for government formation.
During the tenure of former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, a constitutional amendment was passed in the Assembly which made the provision of defecting to another party more stringent. Through an anti-defection Bill in the Assembly, Paragraph 3 of the Seventh Schedule of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution was dropped. As per the provision which was dropped, MLAs would not be disqualified if they were to join another party and their strength was not less than one-thirds of the total strength of the party.
However, even under the existing law, members are not disqualified if more than two-thirds of them join any other political group. Paragraph 4 of the Seventh Schedule of the state Constitution reads,“The merger of the original political party of a member of a House shall be deemed to have taken place if, and only if, not less than two-thirds of the members of the legislature party concerned have agreed to such merger.”
Noted legal expert Altaf Haqqani says, “By virtue of the amendments in the Seventh Schedule, the provision relating to a split of a party has been omitted while the provision about a merger remains intact.”
Senior PDP leader Nizamudin Bhat believes that even the provision related to a split of a party is weak. He says, “The decision on disqualification of a member has to be taken by the Speaker of the Assembly in case of a split. The Speaker presently is a BJP MLA.” He also said that members can approach the court and get their disqualification stayed.
“The anti-defection law has not been implemented effectively. In case of a split also, the defection law becomes weak, as MLAs express a lack of confidence in the party president. It is the president who has to write to the Speaker to get a member disqualified on the grounds of defection,” said Bhat, a former MLA from Bandipora.
He further said that the decision of the governor to keep the Assembly in suspended animation may have been "due to the constitutional compulsion of holding an election within six months in case of dissolution.”
BJP leader and former minister Abdul Gani Kohli said, “Governor’s Rule had become necessary as the situation had deteriorated in Kashmir.” He said that the policies of the PDP did not improve the situation in Kashmir. “The amnesty to stone-pelters didn’t help as stone-pelting continued unabated in Kashmir. The situation in Kashmir is still volatile and the non-initiation of combat operations also didn’t help improve the situation.”
A senior official working in the Legislative Assembly said that while the Assembly remains under suspended animation, the MLAs will continue to draw salaries and other perks. However, he ruled out the possibility of the governor holding a session for a day within the six-month period to keep the Assembly in suspended animation till the time conditions become conducive in the state for holding polls. (As per the state Constitution, between two Assembly sessions, there should not be a gap of more than six months).
After Governor’s Rule was imposed, anti-militancy operations as well as pro-freedom protests have increased in Kashmir.
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Updated Date: Jun 24, 2018 23:05:58 IST