Jammu: The Ministry of Law and Justice has notified Friday, May 20, 2022, as the appointed day when Justice Ranjana Prasad Desai headed Delimitation Commission’s award of 90 seats to Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly comes into force.
But 90 may not be the final number of seats on the floor of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, as and when it comes to life, as the ‘final award’ still rests with the Modi Government.
While announcing its award on May 5, after two-year long exercise, the Delimitation Commission made an unusual recommendation. An a statement accompanying the award, the Commission recommended to the Government to nominate two Kashmiri migrants and an unspecified number of PoJK (Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir) refugees to the Legislative Assembly.
The Commission may have earned criticism in certain circles for overstepping its brief but stakeholders from both community and the pro-BJP constituencies have received the recommendations with overwhelming welcome.
Contrary to the ‘informed criticism’ the recommendations could not have been without any basis or without any possibility of implementation. This may have long been overlooked by politicians and experts but the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019 clearly provides for the Government to be able to nominate a number of members to the Assembly.
Section 13 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act says, “On and from the appointed day, the provisions contained in Article 239A which are applicable to the Union Territory of Puducherry shall also apply to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir”.
The Article 239A of the Constitution of India says the following: “A body, whether elected or partly nominated and partly elected, to function as a Legislature for the Union Territory”.
The Puducherry Assembly is comprised of 33 seats. While 30 seats are put to direct elections, three members to the Assembly are nominated by the Government of India. This is what exactly the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act says in its section 13.
So, under the provisions of Article 239-A of the Constitution of India, as application to the Union Territory of Puducherry, the Government of India will have the power and authority to nominate members to the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Such number of members is yet to be determined (or made public) and that will become the final allocation or award of the total number of seats on the floor of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.
The Delimitation Commission asked the Government to nominate two Kashmiri migrants to the Assembly but it left the question of PoJK refugees open ended. While the nomination of Kashmiri migrants could be a humanitarian approach to be justified on the basis of some existing precedents, the question of PoJK refugees has huge political implications and a historical background.
What is with recommendations for Kashmiri migrants has also been the case with two nominated Anglo-Indian members in Lok Sabha until 2020 and two nominated women members in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly until 2020. So, if Kashmiri migrants are nominated to the Assembly that would be not be without a precedent.
The nomination of PoJK refugees, particularly the number, would be an interesting development to see. Ever since first Assembly in Jammu and Kashmir, the State constitution provided for reservation of 24 seats for the refugees. This has been a strong political statement without any practical value. The seats were to be filled through elections only after India was able to reclaim the occupied areas from Pakistan. Till then the seats were to be kept vacant.
The Government statistics say there are around 36,000 families of the PoJK refugees in Jammu region and some other parts of the country. Some refugee organisations claim their total number as over 1.2 million.
Since all of them have been the ‘State Subject’ of Jammu and Kashmir, there has never been a bars on them on voting or contesting elections.
With the nomination of Kashmiri migrants and PoJK refugees emerging as a certain thing, the total number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly will surely be above 90. or what the Delimitation Commission has awarded. The final award, therefore, rests with the Modi Government.