Former CIC Points Out Lapses In J&K Reorganisation Act

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Wajahat Habibullah

Urges President Kovind To Get Issue Examined By Legal Experts

SRINAGAR: Former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has pointed out lapses in the enactment of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, saying that the BJP-led government has not included the Legislative Assembly of J&K in the Electoral College through which Presidential elections are held.

In a letter addressed to the President of India Ram Nath Kovind, Habibullah draws attention to what he describes as “significant constitutional lapse” that according to him has occurred in the course of enacting Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

“The J&K Reorganisation Act contains no provision to amend Article 54 and 55 of the constitution of India for including the proposed legislature of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in the Electoral College that will be constituted to elect your successor in July 2022. If this lacuna is not remedied, the people of J&K will be denied representation in this and successive elections,” Habibullah writes in the letter, a copy of which is in the possession of Kashmir Observer.

This constitutional ambiguity, he writes has come to light by recent news reports of an intervention made by one Shubham Khatri, a student of Ashoka University, through the Right to Information Act, 2005. He has also enclosed media’s comprehensive coverage of the issue in the letter.

The letter sent on May, 05 further informs the President that the Article 54 of the Constitution provides for the manner of election to the office of the President of India and that the members of Electoral College who are eligible to vote in the said election are listed therein.

“The procedure for such election is prescribed in Article 55 of the Constitution. Article 54 includes the Legislative Assemblies of the UTs of Delhi and Pondicherry (now Puducherry) in the said Electoral College, by way of an Explanation to that provision. This Explanation is applicable to Article 55 also. This Explanation was inserted through the Constitution (Seventieth) Amendment Act, 1992 operational since 01, June, 1995,” Habibullah, who is the Chairperson of CHRI, India-EC writes.

He further writes that the Section 14 of the J&K Reorganisation Act provides for the establishment and the constitution of a 107-member Legislature for the UT of J&K.

“The UT of Ladakh has no legislature. To the best of our knowledge, nothing in Section 14 or other provisions of the J&K Reorganisation Act seeks to amend Article 54 and 55 of the Constitution to include the proposed Legislative Assembly of J&K in the Electoral College that must be constituted to elect the President of India, thus depriving millions of Indians of a day in this vital democratic exercise,” he says.

Making a fervent appeal, Habibullah who previously served as Kashmir interlocutor, urges President Kovind to take immediate steps for inclusion of the Legislative Assembly of J&K in the said Electoral College through an appropriate legislative device, which is indispensable for removing all doubt about the participation of the elected representative of J&K in the process of electing your successors.

“For this, we urge you to have this crucial matter examined by legal experts in your government with the clear direction that suitable remedial action be taken to ensure that the future members of the J&K Legislative Assembly, are not left out of the Electoral College that will be convened to elect your successors,” he adds.

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