Srinagar: Governor NN Vohra has returned to the state government a controversial bill, which was passed by both houses, for an amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act which allows indirect election of sarpanches by panches instead of a direct election. The governor has sought “certain clarifications” from the government, an official spokesman said.
“Regarding Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2016, as certain issues of vital importance to the decentralised democratic framework are involved, the Governor has asked the State Government to furnish certain clarifications,” an official spokesman said here on Sunday.
A political storm had broken out over the bill in the state legislature with the Opposition accusing the PDP-BJP government of trying to weaken the panchayati raj system in the state.
The largest opposition party, National Conference, even petitioned Governor NN Vohra urging him to withhold his assent to the amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act 1989.
In a memorandum to Vohra, the NC had claimed the amendment shall “trample the spirit of people being real masters of their destiny”. The indirect mode of electing sarpanches (village heads), the NC said, would amount to “murder of democracy”.
The state Congress had already opposed the amendments to the bill, saying that it “will bring drastic changes in the panchayati raj system, which go against the spirit of the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution.”
State president of the All Jammu Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC) described the bill as a “black law to weaken and eventually crush democracy at the grassroots.”
“The indirect election of sarpanches instead of being elected by the people will only encourage money and muscle power, besides giving birth to several malpractices. This is a black law and will be opposed tooth and nail,” the AJKPC had said.
PDP-BJP alliance minister for rural development and panchayati raj Abdul Haq Khan had maintained that such a system was in place till 1996 and it had never encountered a problem.
“The election of sarpanches by the electorate has created a problem, as it has been found that in larger number of cases there is a rift between panches and sarpanches,” Khan had said. “Sarpanches get elected directly and there is lack of confidence from the panches in him and vice-versa, which hampers the process of implementation of various schemes on the ground level. Accordingly, it has been felt to amend the provision of the Act.”
Meanwhile, Governor NN Vohra has given his assent to the following bills passed by the state legislature: (i) Jammu and Kashmir Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupation (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (ii) The Jammu and Kashmir Civil Laws (Special Provisions) (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (iii) The Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Backward Classes (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (iv) The Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulations) (Amendment) Bill, 2016; (v) The Jammu and Kashmir Chit Funds Bill, 2016; (vi) The Jammu and Kashmir General Sales Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2016.