Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated by the BJP government on August 5, 2019. The article granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The abrogation has enabled the bifurcation of the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Since then, according to TOI, over 23 petitions have been filed against the abrogation. However, the Supreme Court on March 2, has refused to refer a batch of pleas, challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370, to a larger seven-judge bench, saying that there is no reason to do so, PTI reported.
The five-judge constitution bench which pronounced the order constituted Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant. The bench had reserved its order on this issue on 23 January.
Any issue related to Jammu and Kashmir causes a massive stir. And if it is about Article 370, then all the related controversies, media coverage, debates and blame games are sure to follow. So let us have some clarity on the burning issue of Article 370, which has been reopened by the recent BJP government.
What is Article 370?
In simple words, Article 370 separates Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of India by providing temporary provisions and granting special and autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Because of Article 370 in place, all the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to all the states in India, are not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. For instance, the state follows the Ranbir Penal Code instead of the Indian Penal Code. J&K had a Sadr-e-Riyasat instead of Governor, and Prime Minister instead of Chief Minister till 1965.
For all the laws apart from communication, foreign affairs, finance and defence, the Indian Parliament depends upon the consensus of the state government. Moreover, the Centre cannot declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state, except for situations like war or external violence.
Historical Background and Provisions
It is not as if Article 370 didn’t have its opponents in the past. A great thinker and poet, Maulana Hasrat Mohini, raised a question in the Constituent Assembly on October 17, 1949, regarding the insertion of Article 370 in the Constitution and asked for the reason of discrimination because of this. Even Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, refused to draft Article 370. Sardar Vallabhai Patel was also against the inclusion of this article because it was a way to discriminate.
The article was finally drafted by Gopalaswami Ayyangar, who was a minister without portfolio in the first Union Cabinet of India. He was in the favour of Article 370 because Kashmir at that time was not ready to be integrated in India, unlike other states, because of war with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.
Pt. Nehru was in favour of Article 370 but said that it was a temporary provision and would be abolished over a period of time. Thus, Article 370 was temporary and drafted with a hope that one day the state will become a part of India. But to date, it hasn’t happened.
At the time of Partition, Mountbatten asked Pt. Nehru to take the issue of J&K conflict to the UN but Sheikh Abdullah, the then appointed Prime Minister of J&K, convinced Nehru to grant special status to Jammu and Kashmir because Abdullah wanted to rule the princely state as an autonomous ruler. Article 370 was drafted and included in the Constitution. At the same time, an international aspect was also added to the India-Pakistan conflict over the J&K problem, as the United Nations had to intervene.
Though Article 370 does not discriminate between male and female, females had to seek the fresh status of a permanent resident of the state after marriage. Also, the borders of the state can neither be reduced nor expanded under Article 370. The article does not allow people from other states to purchase land in Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had once said that Article 370 defines the relationship between the state and the Government of India, and if it is abolished then it will revive the topic of J&K’s accession to India. It is the only link between the state and the rest of India.
The Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) is in favour of Article 370 and considers it an important part of the Constitution. According to them, it is the only way to get the benefits of central law to the state.
A recent controversy erupted when the Minister of State Jitendra Singh sought a debate on Article 370. Though he later said that he was misquoted, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said this on Twitter, “Mark my words & save this tweet – long after Modi Govt is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Art 370 will still exist.”
What is your opinion – was it right for the government to abolish Article 370 or not?