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Drabu shuts down Jaitley on 35A

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Srinagar, Mar 30: Once considered very close to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, noted economist Dr Haseeb Drabu has come down heavily on the former’s views regarding Article 35-A, while stating that if the same is repealed it will take J&K back to a quasi-sovereign status.
In an article published in Indian Express on Saturday, Drabu, who served as J&K’s finance minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government, thoroughly explained how vital Article 35-A was, and why Jaitley’s stand against it “needs to be taken very seriously.”
Drabu cautioned about Jaitley going public with his views on Article 35-A saying when the “minions” of the BJP promise abolition of Article 370 or Article 35A, especially prior to the elections, it is not to be taken seriously.
“But when an erudite political leader with the genteel and gravitas of Arun Jaitley goes public on it, it needs to be taken very seriously,” he wrote.
Earlier on Thursday, Jaitley had written a blog in which he called Article 35-A “constitutionally vulnerable” and a “surreptitious executive insertion in the Constitution” while terming it as a “historical blunder” committed by Jawaharlal Nehru.
To it Drabu wrote: “One cannot pick a bone with Jaitley on his calling it a “historical blunder”. That is an opinion based not only on an ideology but a certain understanding of Indian history and a vision for Indian polity. But, the same cannot be said about besmirching Article 35A as a deceitful entry in the Constitution of India. Besides political, it has serious constitutional implications. It also makes the Constitution of India appear as if it were contaminated.”
Drabu stated that even if Article 35-A is repealed, it will not allow “Indian” to buy land in Kashmir since the 1927 notification of the government of Jammu and Kashmir, which imposed restrictions on the employment of, and land ownership by non-state subjects, is a part of the J&K Constitution.
“If anything, if Article 35A is expended, it could pave the way for the rolling back of all orders extending India’s Constitution to J&K after November 17, 1956, when the state’s Constituent Assembly was dissolved,” he wrote.
The former finance minister said repealing the Article will “take J&K back to a quasi-sovereign status, with its own prime minister and president.”
“The state subjects of J&K will cease to be citizens of India and entry of Indian nationals into J&K will be restricted. The goods from India will have to pass through a customs barrier and pay an import duty. And above all, the people of J&K will not be legally obliged to uphold the integrity and sovereignty of India. The comic irony will be that separatists will become mainstream overnight!” he wrote.
For Kashmir and Kashmiris, Drabu said, Article 370, in its present emaciated form, or 35A is not an existential issue.
But, he added, for India as a federation it is.
“If Article 35A is expended it will impinge on basic tenets of constitutional interpretation and will damage the most solemn promises, vis a vis other states, that lie at the heart of the Indian federation. It may well be the beginning of the end of federal India.”
Drabu, who left PDP last year, said that Article 35-A was included into the Constitution of India in 1954 by a presidential order made under Article 370 of the Constitution of India and the process followed in getting it was as constitutional and transparent as it can get.
“It is an interesting factoid that it was Girdhari Lal Dogra (father-in-law of Jaitley), who proposed that the annexure be sent to the government of India for appropriate action. This was February of 1954 and three months later, the President’s order under Article 370 was issued, incorporating, among other provisions, Article 35A in the Constitution,” Drabu wrote.
He added that Article 370, through which Article 35A was brought in, was debated threadbare in the Constituent Assembly of India for more than five months before it was made a part of the Constitution as adopted in 1950.
Drabu said it was important to note that a political process then was running parallel to the Constitutional one.
“The Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Prime Minister of J&K, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, reached an agreement. Nehru recorded it in a note dated July 20, 1952. The terms of the agreement, where the sharing of sovereignty was detailed, were presented to the Lok Sabha. On his part, Abdullah briefed the J&K Constituent Assembly in what is a famous speech in the history of J&K.”