Thursday, June 19, 2008

** To Abolish 370 ?

Time to abolish Article 370
Satbir Singh Bedi
The Pioneer

As part of the integration of various States into the countryu, a three-fold process of integration, known as "the Patel Scheme", was implemented.

As many as 275 States were integrated into five Unions: Madhya Bharat, Patiala and East Punjab States Union, Rajasthan, Saurashtra and Travancore-Cochin. These were included in Part B of the First Schedule of the Constitution. Besides, Hyderabad, Jammu & Kashmir and Mysore were also included in Part B.

At the time of accession to India, the States had acceded only on three subjects -- defence, foreign affairs and communications. Later a revised instrument of accession was signed by which all States acceded in all matters included in the Union and Concurrent Lists.

The process of integration culminated in the Constitution (Seventh Amendment) Act, 1956, which abolished Part B States as a class and included all the States in Part A and B in one list.

However, Jammu & Kashmir was given special treatment based on the instrument of accession, which Maharaja Hari Singh had signed and which was accepted by the then Governor General of India.

When other States signed the revised instrument of accession, a blunder was committed by not asking the Maharaja to do the same.

On the other hand, Article 370 was incorporated in the Constitution giving a special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

Article 370 was a by-product of Jammu & Kashmir's accession to India after independence and was designed to ensure that Kashmiri aspirations were well served by the Indian Government.

According to it, the Kashmiris would have a vital say in the running of their State. The article gave the Union primacy in defence, foreign affairs and communications, while the State assumed greater control over other laws, including those of property, citizenship and fundamental rights.

The article was conceived under 'extraordinary' circumstances, when the threat of Jammu & Kashmir slipping from India's then tenuous grip was a possibility.

Article 370 was supposed to be an interim measure but, like many other temporary features in the Constitution, it has now assumed a permanent air.

Either India should be declared a federal state and thus each State should have its own Constitution or Article 370 should be declared null and void.

Article 370 & Terrorism @