In 2019, the Central Government reorganised the administration of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The special status bestowed to the state under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was scrapped. Therefore, Jammu and Kashmir was divided into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh.
Rajya Sabha introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, on August 5, 2019, through the Minister of Home Affairs. In furtherance to the said Bill, the Union Government repealed Article 370 along with Article 35A.
A bill is introduced to reorganise, split, and carve a new state in India. However, the status of an erstwhile state was changed to a Union Territory for the first time through the bill.
Despite the unanimous support of the public, the sudden announcement left the public and opposition surprised. Furthermore, putting the chief politicians of the valley under house arrest and the shutting down of the internet and other communication mediums drew heavy criticism.
The government schemed to introduce the Bill and manipulated rules and procedures whn introducing the bill. The bill was not mentioned in the list of the business for the day nor attracted any deliberation and discussion.
Table of Contents
The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, reconstitutes the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The disputed region is divided into two union territories (UTs), namely Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. The act contains 103 clauses and repeals 153 existing laws along with Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council. Furthermore, 106 Central Laws are now applicable to the Union Territory.
The act empowers the central government to enact executive orders concerning both the union territories. The constitutional validity of the act and its enactment has been questioned in court through numerous petitions. Therefore, a series of modifications of existing legal provisions are getting witnessed in the valley.
Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir
Before the Reorganisation Bill was tabled, Jammu and Kashmir consisted of the disputed region of Kashmir that was protected by Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which gave it a special status.
Unlike other Indian states, the State of Jammu and Kashmir enacted its own constitution and other substantial laws and enjoyed higher degrees of administrative autonomy. They maintained their criminal codes and land laws. Citizens from other Indian states could not buy land or property here.
The article even immunised the State of Jammu and Kashmir from the applicability of the laws and amendments applicable to other states. The article guaranteed space with regards to the governance of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The citizens of the state always felt vulnerable and insecure about their identities and the future.
However, after the dissolution of Article 370, many Constitutional acts and amendments were extended to the valley. A total of 94 items of the Union list were made applicable to Jammu and Kashmir even before the enactment of the Reorganisation Act.
The Reorganisation Bill
The Reorganisation Act envisioned the division of the state into the following two union territories:
- Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir
- Union territory of Ladakh
The act mandated the formation of a legislative assembly in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. By contrast, the union territory of Ladakh would be looked after by a lieutenant governor alone. The union territory of Ladakh shall contain the districts of Leh and Kargil. The remaining districts would be part of Jammu and Kashmir.
Of the six Lok Sabha seats, one seat was allocated to Ladakh, and five seats were accorded to the Jammu and Kashmir union territory. The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir would be functional for both union territories. Furthermore, the administration of Jammu and Kashmir would be with regards to Article 239A of the Indian constitution.
The reformation led to the substantial reduction of the competence field of Jammu and Kashmir. The state lost its control over the state police. On the financial front, the state now depends heavily on the Center for the devolution of funds. It is no longer a financially autonomous state. The Assembly could only frame legal provisions on issues contained in the State and Concurrent Lists. The state could not exercise power over public order, police and trade and commerce.
The act was a welcome change for Ladakh as the region was severely ignored for over 70 years. The new status of a Union territory would boost development in the region and increase the employment rate in the region.
Argument for Equality
Initially, there were reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Jammu and Kashmir. As a part of a broader scheme of extending nationwide reservations, the new amendments shall make it possible.
For instance, the 2005 Hindu Succession Act amendments gave women equal inheritance rights as men shall now get observed in Jammu and Kashmir.
All the scholarship schemes of the Centre become applicable to the region
Subsequent legislation – Jammu And Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2021
The Minister of Home Affairs, G Kishan Reddy, enacted Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill 2021 to substitute the prevailing ordinance. The ordinance merged the Jammu and Kashmir cadre of civil officials with the Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre.
Criticism for Jammu And Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019
The procedure opted by the Central government to establish its hold and position on Jammu and Kashmir through the Rajya Sabha was perceived as hasty and stealthy. The move was openly criticised as it severely impacts the ethos of federalism, parliamentary democracy, and diversity.
No Previous Discussions
Another point of criticism is no prior discussions were performed. The act of the central government passing the legislation without prior consultations was unprecedented.
The exercise of effectively abolishing Article 370 of the Constitution was considered to be excessive.
No participation of locals
The process of changing the constitutional status of a disputed border State was achieved without any legislative input or participation of locals.
Considering the cross-border dispute with India, Pakistan, and China over the Kashmir region, the valley was granted special status to protect its people. However, the prompt move of the Centre deprived people of this legal right on the said matter and considerably affected their life and sentiments. Thus, such a special status of J&K should have been ended only with the consultation and consent of people.
With the introduction of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, the Centre has encapsulated the state of Jammu and Kashmir entirely into an Indian territory. Furthermore, the state was divided into two union territories for the convenience of administration.
The reorganisation was preceded by a massive military build-up and the house arrest of senior ruling legislators. Internet ban and communication shutdown could be considered as the gross violation of fundamental rights. Some locals loathe the move.
FAQs on Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act
Is RTI applicable in the region of Jammu and Kashmir?
Yes, the enactment of the reorganisation Act is subject to the RTI.
As per the new act, how much reservation did the minorities in the valley get?
The minorities in the valley were accorded 16% reservation.
What was Article 35A?
Article 35A defined the permanent residence of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and defined their rights and privileges.
If the Kashmiri woman marries out of the state, will she lose her rights?
As per the Reorganisation Act, such a woman shall not lose her rights or citizenship.
Which penal code is applicable to the valley?
After enacting the Reorganisation Act, The Indian Penal Code 1860 became applicable to both the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.