Thursday January 18, 2018
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Abolishing Articles 370 and 35A remains a question

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By Kanika Rangray

A view of the Indian Supreme Court building is seen in New DelhiThe Supreme Court issued a notice to the law department of Jammu and Kashmir, regarding a petition filed by Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC), an RSS-backed organisation, which challenges Article 35A of the Indian Constitution.

Article 35A of the Indian Constitution allows the state of Jammu and Kashmir to grant special privileges and rights to permanent residents.

Delhi-based JKSC had filed a petition with the apex court last month, saying Article 35A does not allow non-residents of the state from buying land or property, getting a government job or voting in assembly elections in J&K. The organisation claims to be independent but is alleged to have the support of the RSS.

A senior officer in J&K’s law department told The Citizen, “We have received a notice (from the Supreme Court) on the matter and our legal team is preparing a response. The government will prepare a response, keeping in view the special status granted to the state under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.”

The petition against Article 35A is being considered as a stepping stone towards abolishing Article 370, a law in the Indian Constitution that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. As per this article, the constitutional provisions applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K. The state has its own constitution, except for matters related to defense, foreign relations, communication and finance, which come under the jurisdiction of the Indian Constitution.

How it all began…

Article-370

Article 370 was incorporated in the Indian Constitution in 1947, when the then ruler of J&K Maharaja Hari Singh signed Instrument of Accession to India. However, the relationship of this state with the rest of the country was governed by special circumstances, and hence given a special position. The Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir, which Dr. Karan Singh (son of Maharaja Hari Singh) signed into law in 1957, still governs the state.

Rahul Jalali, president of the Press Club of India, said: “Article 370 is a constitutional bridge between the Indian Constitution and the laws that govern Jammu and Kashmir.”

Article 35 deals with the status of the people in J&K—Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC). It was enacted in 1927 by Maharaja Hari Singh and was then called the State Subject Act. According to this Act, it gave the right of property only to citizens of J&K. It also gives the right of employment only to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.

But after 1947, certain amendments were made to this Act. During that time period, a number of refugees came from Pakistan and settled in Jammu and Kashmir. Now, they have been given temporary resident-ship in the state, but their status is still unclear. On one side, they have voting rights, but they do not hold citizenship of the state. They are citizens of India, but with the lack of PRC they are not allowed to own any property or do a government job.

The way it affected the people of J&K

The Valmikis, a community in J&K, are also affected by this Act. This community settled in Jammu, and though they were given part citizenship rights, they were not given the right to work. The Valmikis were brought in during the Maharaja’s time, but to do a specific sort of labour—scavenging.

And this practice continues till date.

There is a clause in Article 370 itself, which says that this law cannot be abolished by anyone other than the J&K constituency. It is due to this that some people are of the view that Article 370 can never be abolished. But another interpretation is that by constituent assembly, it means J&K assembly, which thereby holds the power to abolish this law.

According to Jalali, it is more of a “legal and intellectual debate.” The people in Kashmir are very clear that they do not want Article 370 to be abolished, but people in Jammu have not really made up their minds yet. A local political party in Jammu, the Panthers Party, keeps an unstable stance regarding this issue, sometimes saying it wants 370 to be abolished and sometimes saying that it wants it to stay.

One of the reasons that the state wishes to regain its special status is because it has its own set of laws. Like the country has the Indian Penal Code, similarly the state has a Ranbir Penal Code (named after Ranbir Singh, the great-grandfather of Dr. Karan Singh.)

The only national party opposed to Article 370 is the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). It has twice tried to abolish it, once in 1998 and now again. And so the Kashmiri people believe that since no other party is willing to abolish this, it will never be gone.

Jalali says that as of now “article 370 is just on paper”. This article means nothing to the poor. Major needs in Jammu and Kashmir are of employment. Kashmir has one of the highest educated unemployed youth in the country, but unfortunately, there are no jobs. Despite article 370, investment is allowed in Jammu and Kashmir. The problem is that no private company has gone there.

“Kashmir has to change its law. It is ridiculous that people who came here in 1947 are not given citizenship. Secondly, there is also a problem as to why have they limited the Valmikis to a traditional job?” in Mr. Jalali’s opinion. “There is a need of amendment in this law, and not exactly abolishment of this Act.”

 

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CJI faces revolt from four senior most SC judges

The four judges -- Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar -- released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago

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Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
  • The sudden revolt against Chief Justice of India (CJI) by the four senior-most judges of Supreme Court has sent the whole judicial system into an uproar.
  • The four judges accused the CJI of corruption and breaches in a surprise Press Conference.
  • Judge Loya’s death’s controversy, supposedly, sparked this reaction out of the other judges.

Divisions in the Supreme Court burst out in the open on Friday when four senior-most judges took an unprecedented step of addressing the media to accuse Chief Justice Dipak Misra of breaching rules in assigning cases to appropriate benches, with one of them pointing to the plea regarding the mysterious death of Special CBI judge B. H. Loya.

The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI's corruption. Pixabay
The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI’s corruption. Pixabay

At a hurriedly called press conference at his residence, Justice J. Chelameswar and three other colleagues said the Supreme Court administration was “not in order” and their efforts to persuade Justice Misra even this morning “with a specific request” failed, forcing them to “communicate with the nation” directly.

The four judges — Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar — released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago, conceding that he was the master of roster but that was “not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues”.

Asked specifically if they were upset over reference of the matter seeking a probe into the suspicious death of Judge Loya, Justice Gogoi said: “Yes.”

Judge Loya's death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay
Judge Loya’s death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay

Judge Loya, who was hearing a case relating to the killing of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh in an alleged fake shootout in which BJP chief Amit Shah was named an accused (later discharged), died of cardiac arrest in 2014. His family has raised doubts over the circumstances in which Judge Loya died and have sought an independent probe into it.

Plea’s seeking probe came up for a hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday when the top court expressed concerns over it and said it was a “serious issue”. It asked the Maharashtra government to produce all the documents related to the case before January 15.

In a seven-page letter, the four judges said they were not mentioning details of the cases only to avoid embarrassing the institution because “such departures have already damaged the images of this institution to some extent”.

The clash among the judges in the highest court also comes in the wake of a controversial order in November in which Justice Misra declared that the Chief Justice “is the master of the roster” having exclusive power to decide which case will go to which judge.

The CJI called himself 'master of roster' further enraging other judges. Pixabay
The CJI called himself ‘master of the roster’ further enraging other judges. Pixabay

The CJI had given the order a day after a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar had passed an order that a five-judge bench of senior most judges in the apex court should be set up to consider an independent probe into a corruption case in which bribes were allegedly taken in the name of settling cases pending before Supreme Court judges.

Holding that the Chief Justice was only the first among equals, the four judges contended that there were well-settled and time-honoured conventions guiding the Chief Justice in dealing with the strength of the bench required or the composition thereof.

“A necessary corollary to the above-mentioned principle is the members of any multi-numbered judicial body, including this court, would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both composition-wise and strength-wise with due regard to the roster fixed,” they wrote in the letter.

They said any departure from the two rules would not only lead to “unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution” but would create “chaos”.

The four judges also touched upon another controversial issue, the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) on the appointment of judges over which the Supreme Court had locked horns with the government.

The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com
The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com

The government, the letter said, had not responded to the communication and “in view of this silence it must be taken that the MoP has been accepted by the government on the basis of the order of this court”.

Justice Chelameswar told the media that they were “convinced that unless this institution is protected and maintains its requirements, democracy will not survive in the country or any country… The hallmark of a democracy is independent and impartial judges.

“Since all our efforts failed… Even this morning, on a particular issue, we went and met the Chief Justice with a specific request. Unfortunately, we could not convince him that we were right.”

Justice Gogoi said they were “discharging the debt to the nation that has got us here”.

The government appeared to distance itself from the controversy, saying the judges should sort the issue themselves.

Minister of State for Law P. Chaudhary said: “Our judiciary is one of the known, recognised judiciaries in the world. It is an independent judiciary. At this stage, I think no agency is required to intervene or interfere. The Chief Justice and other members should sit together and resolve. There is no question of panic.”

the matter should be resolved among the judges themselves, says P. Chaudhary.

The Supreme Court split had an immediate political fallout, with CPI leader D. Raja saying after meeting Justice Chelameswar that Parliament will have to devise methods to sort out problems like this in the top judiciary.

Two judges, Justice S. A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, are understood to have called on Justice Chelameswar. IANS