Why is Article 370 larger than the Indian Constitution
But Sardar Patel, in the course of integrating all these princely states into the Indian Union, persuaded the rulers to accept the Indian Constitution in toto and integrate completely into the Indian Union, assuring them that not only would there be no minimising of their royal stature and privileges but that they could and indeed they should send their representatives to the Constituent Assembly and participate actively in the drafting of the Indian Constitution. The rulers of the princely states were assured by Sardar Patel that the Constitution would provide for all their concerns and guarantee equal rights to all regions and all peoples. The Princely states acceding to India thus accepted the Indian Constitution totally. Except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. That was Nehru’s personal fiefdom and Patel was intentionally kept away from dealing with that state.
A brief glance at the history of J&K at the turn of the century leading up to Sheikh Abdullah hounding the Maharaja out of the state and negotiating individually with Nehru will throw a great deal of light on the imponderables that caused Article 370 to be included in the Indian Constitution. The root cause was Nehru’s intense hatred of Maharaja Hari Singh.
The history behind Article 370
The RSS and its parivar organizations, except the BJP, is convinced that the only way to render justice to Jammu and Ladakh which have been victims of the Abdullah clan, is to trifurcate/quadrificate J&K into Jammu, Ladakh, the Kashmir valley and a homeland for the persecuted and displaced Kashmiri Pandits, carved out from the valley itself. Demands for such a division of J&K causes the Abdullahs, senior and junior, to react hysterically.
But what they conveniently choose to ignore is that the two-nation theory of which the J&K constitution, the separate flag, Article 370 are all symptoms, was already implemented in J&K when Nehru conceded every one of Sheikh Abdullah’s untenable demands which made the Muslim-majority state of J&K a special state in the Indian Union. And when the RSS calls for trifurcating the state and when the VHP calls for quadrificating the state, it is not to hand over the remains of the state to Pakistan. Hindu majority Jammu will be fully integrated with Indian Union without the provision of the separatist Article 370; Ladakh will be made into a Union Territory while the Kashmir valley alone can retain Article 370 and its illusory privileges. In what is left of the valley after the state is divided, the valley is free to retain Article 370, its separatist flag and its state constitution.
The Abdullahs and the secular section of the Indian intellectual class are thrown into a panic as demands for division of the state gathers momentum. They declare that such a division would deal a mortal blow to secularism. Implied is the proposition that it is a victory for secularism that the Muslim majority state of J&K chooses and continues to be a part of the Indian Union. If this is not subscribing to the two-nation theory, tell me what is. And as for secularism, who are they kidding? The J&K state has rejected, from behind the fig-leaf of Article 370, that part of the 42nd amendment to the Indian Constitution by which certain core changes were made to the Preamble which now includes the words ‘ socialist secular’ and ‘unity and integrity’. The state has washed its hands off any responsibility towards defending and upholding the‘socialist secular’ and ‘integrity’ parts of the Preamble which concern the Indian Union. That this does not apply to the state of J&K has been stated in the Restatement of the Constitution (Application to J&K) order, 1954, which is Appendix II of some publications of the Indian Constitution. What does the secular brigade have to say about that considering they lose no opportunity to declare that secularism is the basic feature of our Constitution and the underlying principle of governance?
Beginning with the Preamble of the Constitution, Article 370 has defined the jurisdiction of the Indian Constitution in J&K. Let us quickly take a look at some of the more important laws that apply and those that do not apply to the state of J&K. This will help us to understand better the implications and the utter futility of granting any ‘greater autonomy’ to the state or to even consider a return to the pre-1953 status.
The Jekyll and Hyde of Article 370
Article 370 has two personalities, so to say. It is a double-edged tool. It is a legal paradox which both integrates and divides the state from the rest of India. Like Sardar Patel said, it is a mechanism by which the President of India can issue special Orders which extend several Indian constitutional provisions that prevail in the rest of the country, to the state of J&K too. Under Article 370, the President, through the Constitution (Application to J&K) Orders of 1950, 1954 and several times thereafter up until 1994 has so far brought the state of J&K under the purview of 205 national Acts and laws. These include several important laws concerning Labour, laws concerning Customs, excise and other Taxes, The Negotiable Instruments Act, The Census Act, The Reserve Bank of India Act, The Imports and Exports (control) Act, The Banking Companies Act, The Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, The Representation of People Act, The Companies Act, and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act being some of the more important acts which has integrated the state of J&K with mainstream national laws. This is the Dr. Jekyll face of Article 370.
But, as I said, this integration is only one side of the tool, pardon the mixed metaphors. The other side is a dangerous weapon. It is this side which has caused the maximum damage not only to the state but to the national fibre. While on the one hand Article 370 has enabled the extension of several laws to prevail in J&K, it has also kept the Indian Constitution from being implemented in toto. The Mr. Hyde face of Article 370 states that Parliament may make laws for that state only with the consultation or concurrence of the state government. There are several parts of the Indian Constitution which do not apply to the state at all or apply with modifications. A very major section of the chapter on the Fundamental Rights of a citizen, enshrined in our national Constitution, does not apply to the state of J&K. Two very important provisions of our Constitution which deserve attention in this context, and which either do not apply to J&K or apply with modification, are Articles 352 and 360 relating to declaring a state of Emergency in the country as a whole or in any part of the territory of this country.
As per Article 352, if the President of India is convinced that there is an imminent danger to national security either because of external aggression, possibility of war or because of armed rebellion from within the country, he may, upon receiving a written communication from the Union Cabinet, proclaim a state of emergency in the whole country or in any part of the country which is so threatened. But Article 370 has enabled the modification of this Article with respect to J&K in that while the President may declare emergency in the whole country in the event of a war or external aggression, he may not declare emergency in J&K without the consent of the state government in cases of internal armed rebellion. This means that even when terrorism brings the state to a point of total anarchy or breakdown of law and order, the President cannot declare a state of emergency in J&K without the permission or request of the state government.
As for Article 360 by which the President may declare a financial emergency in the whole or part of this country, it does not apply to the state of J&K at all. Given the runaway corruption in J&K afflicting all areas of governance and administration, and given the lack of political will to deal with it, a state of financial emergency can never be declared by the President even when the state teeters on the brink of a complete economic or financial breakdown. The CBI has no jurisdiction in J&K and neither do the CVC nor the Indian Penal Code. Not that alone; The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 also does not apply to J&K.
If this were not enough, what has escaped media and academic scrutiny is the delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. Though Kashmiris constitute roughly only 22 per cent of the State’s total population, the mechanism cleverly devised by Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference Party in 1951 enables it to capture nearly half of the total Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. The national Conference, with the full complicity of Nehru and successive Congress governments has violated every norm set by the Delimitation Act (which had no jurisdiction in J&K then, courtesy Article 370), and carved out 46 Assembly segments in the small Valley as against 41 segments combined for the Jammu and Ladakh regions which are far bigger territorially and several times more populated than the Valley; and three of the six seats to the Lok Sabha have been cornered by the Valley Muslims alone. This discriminatory nature of representation in the Assembly and Parliament is totally contrary to the rules framed under the Indian Parliament’s Representation of People’s Act, 1951, and those under the relevant State Act of 1957.
This cornering of the major chunk of Assembly segments and Lok Sabha seats has ensured once and for all that the Muslims of the state have a decisive say in all affairs of the state. This not only violates all democratic norms but is also a violation of the principle of pluralism to which passionate lip service is paid by the secular brigade in the media and academia. But the valley is a Sunni Muslim majority region and even the remnants of Hindus after five centuries of violent and coercive Islam have today been hounded out altogether.
But by far the most offensive and the root cause of all major problems in J&K lies in the modification of Article 35 of the Indian Constitution through the mechanism of Article 370. Not that alone, to Article 35 is added 35 A which carries the cancerous cell that has sapped the state of J&K of its vitality and life-force. These changes, like other amendments effected through Article 370, are not a part of the text of the Constitution. Therefore, any reader who does not care to read Appendix II of the Constitution of India will never know that a very pernicious and undemocratic change has been made to Article 35 or that together with 35 A they constitute the root cause of the evil side of Article 370. It is because of the changes made to Article 35 and because of Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution that Article 370 has to go and its roots, the J&K state constitution. This may be the right moment to raise the question whether these major changes and amendments made to the Indian Constitution through Article 370 and which are contained only as Appendix I and II, are even a part of the Indian Constitution. And as such, are these changes constitutional?
The modification made to Article 35, the inclusion of Article 35 A and the fact that Articles 12 to 15 of the Indian Constitution do not apply to the state of J&K must be taken and read together to understand why the J&K constitution is a perversion of democracy. Democracy’s underlying principle is equality before law. By completely disregarding the fundamental democratic principle of equality, the National Conference, whose brainchild the state constitution is, continues to preside over a feudal political arrangement. The ultimate perversion lies in the fact that there is no judicial redress for the affected people of J&K whose fundamental rights have been violated and who have been denied the basic right to equality. Let us take Articles 35 and 35 A apart, piece by piece, to see the perversion clearly.
As per Constitution (Application to J&K) Order of 1971, clause (3) of Article 32 will not apply to the state of J&K. Article 32 specifies the remedies available to every citizen for enforcement of rights conferred by the Constitution and contained in the chapter on Fundamental Rights. Clause (3) of Article 32 says that while any citizen whose fundamental rights have been violated or who has been denied his fundamental rights may approach the Supreme Court for redress and while the Supreme Court shall have the power ‘to issue directions or orders’ for the enforcement of these rights, Parliament too “may by law empower any other court to exercise within its local limits all those powers conferred on the Supreme Court to enforce these rights”. This means not just the Supreme Court alone but any other court in a state or union territory can be empowered by parliament to assume the very same powers as those of the Supreme Court to enforce the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The chapter on Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution lists the constitutional rights to which every Indian citizen is entitled. These rights can be enforced through judicial intervention and parliament has the right to make laws for any part of the country or for the country as a whole to protect and enforce these rights. These rights are inviolable except in situation of a state of Emergency in the country. Article 35 declares that parliament has the right and state legislatures do not have the power to make laws for enforcing these rights, for prescribing punishment for acts declared to be offences under this part and so on. But using the provision of Article 370, the state of J&K has refused to allow Parliament to make laws for the state under clause (3) of Article 16 and clause (3) of Article 32, both of which, besides Articles 33 and 34 are matters mentioned in Article 35A (i) as being areas for which Parliament has the right to make laws.
By refusing to accept the jurisdiction of clause (3) of Article 32, the state of J&K has violated the fundamental rights of a section of the citizens of India residing in J&K, and who do not belong to a category created by the National Conference called ‘permanent residents’. The National Conference may disclaim any responsibility for the creation of this category with the explanation that ‘permanent residents’ is the new name given to the category of residents of J&K previously known as ‘state subjects’ which was created in 1927 when the state was ruled by the Dogras. But this argument will not wash because while the Maharaja may have had very good reasons for creating this category (shall come to this shortly), there was no reason for continuing with this classification of the residents in J&K as ‘state subjects’ and non-state subjects’ in post-monarchy J&K, in independent India.
What are the implications of clause (3) of Article 32 not being applicable to J&K? It means that those citizens of India who are resident in J&K but who are not ‘permanent residents’ as defined by Section 6 of the J&K state constitution, cannot challenge the denial by the state government of the fundamental rights guaranteed to them by the Indian Constitution because the J&K state constitution has its own version of fundamental rights which is not guaranteed to all residents of J&K. Only the ‘permanent residents’ of J&K are so privileged. And those residents of J&K who are denied these fundamental rights, cannot approach either the Supreme Court or any local court within J&K for redress because a CO under Article 370 has made it impossible for any court to offer redress. The fundamental rights as per the J&K state constitution is discriminatory and there is nothing that any court can do for those who are denied these rights in the state.
And it is this defiance of the basic spirit of the Indian Constitution which has been sanctified and legitimised as Article 35 A about which nobody knows, certainly not the shouting secular brigade, and which is not a part of the official text of the Constitution. Article 35 A says:
Saving of laws with respect to permanent residents and their rights.- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no existing law in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and no law hereafter enacted by the Legislature of the State,-
(a) defining the classes of persons who are, or shall be permanent residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; or
(b) conferring on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions as respects-
(i) employment under the state government;
(ii) acquisition of immovable property in the State;
(iii) settlement in the State; or
(iv) right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide,
shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any rights conferred on the other citizens of India by any provision of this Part.
Look at the tone and content of Article 35 A. It says the state government has classified its residents as first class and second class citizens. Those that are categorised as ‘permanent residents’ are first class citizens with special privileges. We have enshrined them in our state constitution and notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Constitution, no law existing in the state of J&K and no law which may be made in the future with regard to the matters contained in Article 35 A, can be rendered void by Parliament or the Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates or abridges the rights guaranteed by the national Constitution to all citizens. What Article 370 is doing is enabling the state constitution to thumb its nose at the Supreme Court and at Parliament, and above all at the Indian Constitution. It is in effect saying that the denial of the fundamental rights of the Indian Constitution to a section of Indian citizens in J&K is not justiciable and cannot be enforced.
Sardar Patel saw only the Dr. Jekyll side of Article 370. He either did not see or remained silent about Mr. Hyde. Article 370 derives its evil nature from the state constitution. There is no point in demanding abrogation of Article 370 without demanding that the J&K state constitution be rendered null and void too. Article 370 is only the symptom. The malaise is the state constitution which is completely out of line and not in tune with the basic spirit or structure of the national constitution.
It was criminal culpability on the part of our leaders that they did not stipulate any conditions for the state constitution, had no say in the terms of reference of the state constituent assembly and did not insist on representatives as observers of the proceedings in the state constituent assembly to ensure that the state constitution was in line with the basic structure of the national constitution. Article 370 thus is the root cause of some of the more acute problems in J&K. The root-cause with the roots being Article 35 A leading in turn to the state constitution.
Article 35 A tells us by inference that persons categorised as non-permanent residents of J&K cannot buy immovable property in J&K, are not eligible for employment by the state government, cannot contest or vote in local body or Assembly elections, cannot avail of scholarships and other grants offered by the state government to its state subject residents and above all cannot seek redress in any court, local or national. This then is the reason why there is little or no economic or industrial development in the state. No businessman or industrialist from the rest of India will ever invest a rupee in a state which will not allow him to own property there.
J&K is wholly dependent on Government of India funds not only to meet Plan expenditure but also non-Plan expenditure. Any investment in industry or economic development comes solely from the GOI. Whatever little indigenous trade or industry existed in the state by way of its orchards, carpets and tourism, have been almost destroyed by terrorism and continuing self-pity and apathy. Considering that the state has neither the financial nor natural resources to exist independently of the rest of India, it is greater integration with India that is called for and not greater autonomy. And this can be effected, some thinkers believe, only by abrogating Article 370. But that leaves the question of the mechanism by which to integrate the state constitution with the Indian constitution if you abrogate Article 370 but allow the J&K state constitution to remain?
But let us for arguments sake, academically consider if it is possible to abrogate Article 370.
1. The first and most obvious course of action would be that which is contained in Article 370 itself. That the President of India, by a public notification can declare that the Article ceases to be operative. But here is the catch –the President can issue such a notification only upon the recommendation of the state constituent assembly. But the state constituent assembly has been dissolved and no longer exists. The question then is, can the President issue this notification unilaterally considering that it is not possible to procure the recommendation of a non-existent body? Or should we understand that because the state constituent assembly has been dissolved, the President can never ever issue such a notification? It is a crying shame that as a nation, we have still not worked through the nuances of Article 370.
2. The second option rests on the assumption that the rights and responsibilities of the state constituent assembly have been handed over to the state legislature. In which case, the state legislature can issue the recommendation to the President asking him to issue the notification which will render Article 370 inoperative. But considering that the National Conference has given the Muslim majority valley 46 assembly seats against the 41 allotted to Jammu and Ladakh together, no state legislature dominated by the Muslims of the valley will ever seek to abrogate Article 370 under whose dispensation they are the most privileged category of the residents of J&K.
3. The third option would be to take recourse to Article 368 of the Indian Constitution which empowers Parliament to amend the Constitution and also lays down the procedure to be adopted. One would think that Article 368 empowers Parliament to adopt the procedure laid down in Article 368 and amend the Constitution by abrogating Article 370. But Article 370 itself has enabled through the Constitution (Application to J&K) Order, an amendment of the Constitution in such a way that Article 368 applies to J&K only in a modified manner. Clause (2) of Article 368 says that after the Bill for amending the Constitution is tabled in either house of the Parliament and after it has been passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, the President may give his assent to the Bill seeking amendment to the constitution. But, and here is the catch again, the President’s Order on the applicability of the Indian Constitution to J&K says that as far as J&K is concerned, the President may issue such an assent only as per clause (1) of Article 370 itself which means that the President can issue amendments to the Indian Constitution through his Constitution (Application to J&K) Order, only in consultation with or with the concurrence of the state government. Back to square one. Even Article 368 takes tortuous twists and turns and comes back to Article 370 again.
4. But the cutest trick lies in the amendment effected to Article 249. Article 249 declares that Parliament is empowered to legislate “in the national interest” even on matters enumerated in the state list. Article 370 has made this Article applicable to J&K with the modification that instead of ‘state list’ the clause should read that Parliament, in the national interest may legislate on that matter “which is not enumerated in the Union List or in the Concurrent List”. Very clever, this. Who will read the fine print of Appendix II to understand the ‘puppy chasing its tail’ futility of trying to get rid of Article 370 through the constitutional route? “Any matter not enumerated in the Union List or Concurrent List” indeed! As far as these two lists go, the final position has been stated and adopted by the Restatement of the Constitution (Application to J&K) Orders up until 1994. The only list that remains is the State list and the State List does not apply to J&K at all because unlike the other states in the Indian Union, the residuary powers with regard to J&K lie not with the Center but with the state, rendering the State List meaningless. So how can Parliament legislate with regard to any matter in the national interest as far as J&K goes, if it should not find place in the Union List or the Concurrent list? What other list is there, pray?
Trying to get rid of Article 370 taking the constitutional path is futile and unproductive. We have created and fattened the grossest aberration whereby the miniscule part is larger than the whole. Article 370 is larger than the Constitution because there seems to be nothing in the Indian Constitution into which Article 370 can be subsumed or by which it can be made to go away. We also have the grossest aberration in that the interest of one state outweighs the collective national interest. Our legal and constitutional experts have not even begun to apply their minds on how to get rid of Article 370. Ignorance is indeed bliss.
Radha Rajan is a Chennai-based political analyst. She is also author and animal activist.