J&K government's "weak" legal defence of various sensitive attributes of state's special status is alarming, former Chief Minister and National Conference's Working President Omar Abdullah said on Sunday, day after the Supreme Court said "J&K has no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India."
In a hard-hitting statement, Omar said the "deliberate callousness" shown by the State Government "indicated the tacit connivance of PDP in allowing step-by-step erosion of Article 370 through a series of politically-patronized cases and litigations."
Article 370 guarantees special status to J&K.
Referring to "recent instance of bleak surrender" by the State Government's counsel in defending the position of J&K vis-à-vis enforcement of Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act (SARFAESI Act), Omar asked the PDP-BJP Government to come clean on its stand on "this vital issue that could have far-reaching implications for the State."
"The Special Leave Petition challenging the verdict of the Division Bench of the J&K High Court was filed with the required notice being issued to the State Government in February. The appeal was argued in the Honourable Supreme Court by no less than the Attorney General for India, the top law officer of the Union Government. In light of this, two pertinent questions need to be answered by the PDP and its alliance government in the State. First, since we were told PDP has entered into an alliance with the BJP with a concrete agreement from the Union Government and the BJP that the State's Special Status would be protected, why is the Union Government using the judicial route to subvert certain attributes of the state's constitutional character?" Omar said. "And second, why did the State Government fail to come up with an appropriate and serious response considering the sensitivity of this issue and the importance of safeguarding the State's political rights?"
Omar said the J&K government's counsel in the Supreme Court has made it evident that the State Government "prima-facie doesn't oppose the application of the SARFAESI Act in Jammu and Kashmir. This has far-reaching implications as the application of the SARFAESI Act to J&K is debatable in the context of Article 370 of the Constitution of India as also the provisions of the J&K Transfer of Property Act. Instead of highlighting these arguments and points of view, the State Government's counsel virtually conceded before the Supreme Court that the Parliament is competent to extend SARFESI Act to J&K. This implicates the State Government in a visible pattern of such incidents that are aimed at undermining the State's Constitution and Article 370 of the Constitution of India."
"It is the duty of the State Government to fully and competently defend the status of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and prevent any Central Laws from undermining the autonomous character of the State, its constitution and the essence of Article 370. Unfortunately the PDP-BJP Government it seems has absolved itself of this duty in what could be an understanding it has with the Central Government in this context. It is important to put the Instrument of Accession, the State's Constitution and the State's Special Autonomous Status in the right perspective while dealing with such cases and while representing the State in the Honourable Supreme Court – and that clearly hasn't happened here," the NC"s Working President said.
Highlighting "glaring contradictions" in PDP's stand on the SARFAESI Act in the Opposition and "its evident support" to the application of the Act to the State now, Omar reminded the party of various statements and columns written by its senior leaders on this issue while they were in the opposition. "In what could be yet another volte-face by the PDP, it seems they have decided to facilitate the long-cherished desire of their alliance partner to circumvent and subvert the Constitution of the State and attributes of Article 370," he alleged.
The National Conference, Omar said, would consult eminent constitutional lawyers, jurists and civil society groups "to prevent subversion of the state's Constitution and its autonomous character."