Article 35A: Mehbooba meets Farooq

Srinagar: In a surprise development, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday went to meet opposition National Conference president Farooq Abdullah amid a debate on an article in the Constitution which grants special privileges to the state.

“@MehboobaMufti called on @JKNC_ President this evening to discuss the prevailing political situation in the state. It was a cordial meeting,” National Conference working president Omar Abdullah tweeted. Omar did not elaborate on the issues discussed by Mehbooba and Abdullah, who is a Lok Sabha member from Srinagar constituency.

However, sources in the National Conference said the legal challenge mounted on the validity of Article 35A of the Indian Constitution was the main subject of discussion between the two leaders. “The chief minister sought cooperation of all political parties including National Conference in safeguarding the special status of Jammu and Kashmir within the Constitution of India,” the sources said.

Article 35A, added to the Indian Constitution through a presidential order of 1954, empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define the state’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges. The Article has come under focus recently after two Kashmiri women approached the Supreme Court, challenging it as they contended that it had disenfranchised their children.

At a recent event in Delhi, Mehbooba said if Article 35A was tinkered with, there will be no one in Kashmir to uphold the national flag. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has sought the response of the Centre on a plea challenging the validity of Article 370 of the Constitution that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.

The petition challenged the April 11 order of the Delhi High Court rejecting a plea saying nothing survives in it as the apex court has already dismissed a similar prayer on the issue. A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and justices Adarsh Goel and D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre on the petition which also sought a direction to declare the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir as “void”, “illegal” and “ultravires” of the Constitution of India. The bench asked the government to reply within four weeks.

In her petition, Kumari Vijayalakshmi Jha claimed that the High Court had dismissed her plea by “wrongly following and misreading” the earlier judgement of the apex court. She had contended in the High Court that Article 370 was a temporary provision that had lapsed with the dissolution of the state’s Constituent Assembly in 1957. The petition had said that the continuance of Article 370 even after the dissolution of the state’s Constituent Assembly and the J-K Constitution never getting the assent of the President of India or Parliament or Government of India, amounted to “fraud on the basic structure of our Constitution”.

Advocate Anil Kumar Jha, appearing for the petitioner, claimed that the high court considered only the first prayer and had not taken into account other prayers mentioned in the plea. He said that earlier judgement of the apex court in 1969 was in a different context and, hence it could not have been relied upon. “The high court kept the judgement reserved for about 13 months and on April 11, 2017 pronounced the verdict dismissing the writ petition without considering the merits/issues involved therein,” the petition said.

It also said the high court did not consider the judgment passed and ratio laid down by the apex court. In July 2014, the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea challenging the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir and had asked the petitioner to move the high court.

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