PIL on J&K’s special status: NC voices concern on Centre not filing counter-response

Srinagar, Jul 18 (PTI) The NC today expressed concern over the Centre’s decision not to file a written response to a PIL in the Supreme Court, challenging Article 35A of the Constitution, saying it was tantamount to “supporting” an assault on the special status of Jammu and Kashmir”.

“The Centre’s decision to remain ambiguous on the very sensitive issue indicated a political intention to support and patronise those forces that want to use the judicial route to launch an assault on Article 35A and Article 370 of the Constitution,” the National Conference said in a statement.

The Centre had yesterday refused to commit itself in the Supreme Court on continuing with the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir by the Constitution, saying being purely a legal issue, it should be decided by a larger bench of the apex court.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud that the matter raised in a public interest litigation (PIL) in 2014 by Delhi-based NGO ‘We the Citizens’, against the continuance of the special status, was a legal issue and therefore, the Centre was not filing any reply to the notice issued in 2014.

“The decision of the Attorney General not to file a written counter-response to the PIL, before it was referred to a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, has raised many red flags and yet again points towards the fact that the powers that be in New Delhi are patronising and supporting such moves to question Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and state subject laws,” read the statement.

It claimed that it was evident that the Centre wanted to “abstain from taking a clear position” on the issue, a “dangerous” approach, which could lead to an “irreparable damage” to the state’s special status.

Article 35A of the Constitution empowers the legislature of Jammu and Kashmir to define the “Permanent Residents” of the state and subsequently, empowers it to provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents.

“It is the responsibility of the Centre and the Attorney General to respond to such PILs in a transparent, unambiguous and unequivocal manner and that has clearly not happened,” said the opposition party in Jammu and Kashmir.

Referring to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the state, the NC alleged that the extension of the new tax regime to the state through a Presidential Order “robbed” it of its fiscal autonomy.

It described the move as the “most recent instance of the PDP-BJP state government and the Centre collaborating to inflict an irreparable harm on the state’s autonomy and special status”.

“The wound inflicted on the state’s autonomy through the extension of GST is still fresh as another new machination has been launched to question the validity of Article 35A now,” the statement read.

It added that while senior PDP leaders and the current state finance minister initially opposed the extension of GST to Jammu and Kashmir, the ruling party eventually “surrendered and then actively collaborated with the Centre to decimate the state’s fiscal autonomy”.

“The PDP seems to have teamed up with the powers that be yet again to facilitate an assault on Article 35A,” the NC alleged.

It said it was in the process of getting the details of the PIL to consult legal and constitutional experts.

“The National Conference has and will continue to fight for the state’s special status and the restoration of its autonomy and no power on earth can suppress the state and its people in safeguarding their constitutionally validated political rights,” the statement added.

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