DECODING JAMMU & KASHMIR REORGANIZATION ACT 2019


On the same day i.e. 5th August, 2019 on which the President promulgated the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order, 2019 by virtue of Article 370 (1) and in concurrence with the Government of the State of Jammu & Kashmir which makes all the provisions of the Constitution of India to be applicable on the present State of Jammu & Kashmir, The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019 was introduced in Rajya Sabha by Hon’ble Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah with a motive to change political and geographical status of the present State of Jammu & Kashmir. The bill specifically provides for reorganizing the present State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories i.e. Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir.

The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha on the same day of its introduction and in the Lok Sabha on 6th August, 2019. The bill received the assent of the President on 9th August, 2019. The two Union Territories will come into existence on 31st October, 2019 marking the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel. 

The Government of India gave two major reasons for bifurcating the state of Jammu and Kashmir in two territories:
  1. To maintain internal security and prevent cross border terrorism in the state.
  2. To fulfill the demands of the people of Ladakh to give it a status of a Union Territory.
Some of the salient features introduced by this Act
  1. Administration of the Union Territories: With the reorganization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh into a Union territories, the Act provides that the President shall take up the administrative authority of both the Union Territories, with the help of Lieutenant Governor, to be appointed by him under Article 239 of the Constitution. Although till October 31, 2019 i.e. till the time when the Act actually comes into effect, the current Governor of the present State of Jammu & Kashmir will take up the administrative responsibility as the Lieutenant Governor. After October 31, the President is empowered to appoint different Lieutenant Governors for both the Union Territories. In addition to normal powers, the LG is empowered to "act in his discretion" in matters related to All India Services and Anti-Corruption Bureau - which have been a contentious issue between the NCT of Delhi and central government.
  2. Legislature and Executive: Similar to the Union Territory of Puducherry, the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir will also have a Legislature which shall work with the advice of Council of Ministers but on the other hand similar to Union Territory of Chandigarh, the Union Territory of Ladakh will not have a Legislature. Also interestingly enough the Legislative Council is also abolished and will cease to exist. The Act provides that the Legislative Assembly of the new UT of Jammu & Kashmir will have a total of 107 seats which may be increased to 114 later on in future. The most amusing provision as per which, 24 seats out of the present 107 are reserved which is allegedly supposed to be filled through general elections by the people of the current Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). This is done in anticipation, so that the people of the region which is currently occupied by Pakistan also gets a representation as and when the area in occupation of Pakistan currently, “ceases to be so occupied” in future.
  3. Judiciary: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir will be the common High Court for both the Union Territories with no change in the name of High Court. Advocate General will be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor to provide legal advice to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. While Union Territory of Ladakh does not have any such provision. The words “Bar Council of Jammu and Kashmir” have been replaced by the words “Bar Council of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh” under the Advocates Act, 1961. The advocates enrolled previously to practice in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed to continue their practice. While the ones practicing in the subordinate courts in the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed to do so for a period of 1 year.
  4. Laws: The Act repeals 164 State Laws and 108 Central Laws to be applicable to both the territories by omitting the words “except the State of Jammu and Kashmir” from these acts. The statutes such as Ranbir Penal Code, Civil Procedure Code and Code of Criminal Procedure for the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir Evidence Act have been repealed and Indian Penal Code, 1860, Indian Contract Act, 1872, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, Indian Evidence Act, 1972, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 will be applicable to both the Union Territories. Also, provisions related to conduct of elections and delimitation of constituencies as per Article 324, 329 and 327 of the Constitution of India will be applicable. 
  5. Official Language of Jammu and Kashmir: Legislative Assembly can use Hindi or any one or more languages used in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as the official language. While authoritative texts are to be in English language. 
  6. Allocation of seats in Parliament: Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has 4 seats in the Rajya Sabha same as previously. Only 3 UT’s have been allotted seats in Rajya Sabha namely: Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Puducherry with highest number of seats being allotted to this newly formed Union Territory. Since Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir does not have any legislative assembly of its own therefore it is not allotted any seat in Rajya Sabha like UT’s other than J&K, Delhi and Puducherry. In the Lok Sabha, UT of Jammu and Kashmir has been allotted seats while UT of Ladakh is allotted 1 seat. 
Even on a bare reading of the present Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, any layman can tell that the Act is prone to many challenges. The original Bill includes 103 clauses in total laying out all the provisions, but the Bill fails to comprehensively lay out or for that matter explain the provisions which may create disorder and chaos like situation in the application of the newly passed Act which is the guiding legislation according to which the significant Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh is to be governed. It is evident that the Bill was drafted hastily without much discussions and deliberations. Interestingly enough, the Bill was passed on the same day by the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) on the day when the Hon’ble Home Minister presented it before the Upper House (Council of States), which makes it apparent of the lack of much consideration, deliberations, discussions or debates by the Members of the House in deciding the future of the most controversial and disputed territory in the history of Union of India.        

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