SRINAGAR – In a startling revelation, former Chief Minister and Member Parliament Farooq Abdullah has applied leave from the Lok Sabha on at least three occasions since August 5, the day government of India abrogated special status of Jammu and Kashmir and split the state into two Union Territories.
Abdullah missed the crucial parliament session on the day Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced the shock decision to abrogate Article 370 in the house on August 5 as he reportedly was placed under house arrest. Home Minister however denied Dr Abdullah was under arrest and had wilfully chosen to stay home.
According to a report by India Today, Dr Abdullah has constantly been in touch with the Lok Sabha and has applied for leave from the Lower House thrice since his detention on August 5, last year.
On September 17 last year Dr Farooq was slapped with the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) by the J&K Union Territory administration.
Interestingly a Right to Information application filed by India Today reveals Farooq Abdullah has applied for leave of absence from the sitting w.e.f. 05.08.2019 to 06.08.2019, 18.11.2019 to 13.12.2019 and 31.01.2020 to 11.02.2020. However, the RTI applicant was refused copy of Abdullah’s leave application by the competent authority.
“His application for leave of absence is under consideration of the Committee on the Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House. Since the matter is under the consideration of the Committee on the Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House, the copy of his leave application cannot be provided to the applicant at this stage.” The RTI reply states.
In another query of the RTI seeking details of Abdullah’s absence from the house, the Lok Sabha replied “Details of signing/not signing the Attendance Register by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, MP during all the sessions of 17th Lok Sabha are available on the website of the Lok Sabha i.e., www.loksabha.nic.in ……..The applicant may, however, note that it is possible that Dr. Farooq Abdullah, MP might have attended the sitting of the House on a particular day but did not sign or forgot to sign the Attendance Register for that day. “
In response to another question about how long a member may remain absent from the house, the Lok Sabha secretariat said, As per Article 101(4) of the Constitution of India, ‘If for a period of sixty days a member of either House of Parliament is without permission of the House absent from all meetings thereof, the House may declare his seat vacant. Provided that in computing the said period of sixty days no account shall be taken of any period during which the House is prorogued or is adjourned for more than four consecutive days.
The India Today report further says that when asked whether the Government has informed the Lok Sabha about the reasons for the absence of Farooq Abdullah from the House and if the answer is affirmative, a copy of the information be provided, the response from Lok Sabha Secretariat was “This query does not pertain to this branch”.