Dr Ajaz Ahmad Khan
New Political Map
Two days after the State of Jammu & Kashmir was formally bifurcated into two Union Territories (UTs) of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh on October 31, 2019, the Union Home Ministry released India’s new political map showing 28 States and nine UTs. This new political map includes three districts – Muzaffarabad, Punch and Mirpur – which are in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The Ladakh Union Territory (UT) comprises of two districts Kargil and Leh, while the Jammu & Kashmir UT comprises 20 districts. In 1947, the former Jammu and Kashmir State had 14 districts – Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Kathua, Anantnag, Baramulla, Leh and Ladakh, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Gilgit, Wazarat, Punch, Chihas, and Tribal Territory. The Kargil district was later created out of Leh and Ladakh district.
Administration in the Union Territories
The two new Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh won’t be represented by governors but by Lieutenant Governors. The Government of India has appointed serving Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Gujarat cadre, Mr Girish Chandra Murmu, as the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir and retired civil servant of Tripura cadre, Mr Radha Krishna Mathur, as the Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh. The UT of Jammu & Kashmir will have a legislature like Puducherry has, while Ladakh will be a UT without a legislature, like Chandigarh. Jammu & Kashmir’s Legislative Assembly will have an expanded number of seats. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, records 83 constituencies. The erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state assembly had 87 members excluding the seats reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Election Commission will soon do a delimitation procedure in Jammu & Kashmir. The Reorganisation Act states that Jammu & Kashmir Assembly will have 107 seats (including 24 vacant ones for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) which will be increased to 114 after delimitation. The delimitation procedure is expected to balance out the number of seats between Jammu and Kashmir divisions. In the previous assembly, Kashmir had an upper hand with 46 seats and Jammu having 37. Four seats were with Ladakh.
The tenure of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will be five years when contrasted with six years earlier. In the Lok Sabha, the UT of Jammu & Kashmir will have five Members of Parliament (MPs) while Ladakh will have two. The four sitting Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament (MPs) will keep on being members of the Upper House from J&K.
The Legislative Council of Jammu and Kashmir stands abrogated. Jammu and Kashmir was one of only seven Indian states to have a Legislative Council. The bureaucracy of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State would be divided between the two successor Union Territories. The officers posted in Jammu and Kashmir will keep on being a piece of their existing cadre. However, future postings will be made using the officers of Arunachal Pradesh – Goa – Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre. Laws passed by Parliament are now applicable to both Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Earlier, Article 370 forestalled the application of such laws in Jammu and Kashmir.
End to Dual Citizenship
Jammu and Kashmir had separate laws for its residents, who were granted special citizenship, ownership of property, and rights to employment and voting. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir hitherto enjoyed dual citizenship. Women could lose the Jammu and Kashmir citizenship if they married inhabitants of regions outside J&K. However, if a woman married a Pakistani, she was entitled to retain citizenship of Jammu and Kashmir. Likewise, if a citizen of Pakistan married a woman from J&K, he was eligible for citizenship of J&K. Now these special privileges are gone.
In contrast to other states, Jammu and Kashmir had its own flag. Now there will be no separate flag and only the tricolour will fly here.
Common High Court
The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir will be the common High Court for both the UTs of J&K and Ladakh. There has been no change like in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, which accommodated the High court of Judicature at Hyderabad to temporarily work as the High Court for both the successor states. The Advocate’s Act, 1961, has been amended to supplant the Bar Council of Jammu and Kashmir with the “Bar Council of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh”. Advocates selected to the Bar Council of State of Jammu and Kashmir and practising in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir may keep on being the members of the new Bar Council.
Moreover, any person entitled for practice in any subordinate court in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir will be entitled to practise in such court for a period of one year despite the fact that any part of such territory within the jurisdiction of such court may have been transferred to another Union Territory.
The Act provides for an Advocate General for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, to be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. No such provision has been accommodated for the UT of Ladakh.
One of the most critical changes that the Act brings is that it repeals 164 State Laws and makes 108 Central Laws applicable to both the UTs by discarding the words “with the exception of the State of Jammu and Kashmir”. The Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and different personal laws which were beforehand inapplicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir now apply to both the Union Territories like to the remainder of India. The Ranbir Penal Code, the Jammu and Kashmir Evidence Act, the Civil Procedure Code and Criminal Procedure Code of the State of Jammu and Kashmir have been revoked.
In the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, President’s Rule couldn’t be imposed according to Article 356 of the Constitution of India. Similarly, as per Article 360 of the Constitution of India, the President now has the power to announce Financial Emergency in the two recently made Union Territories.
The writer is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Political Science, Centre of Central Asian Studies, University of Kashmir