National Conference working president Omar Abdullah on Sunday hit out at PDP-led coalition government saying its “weak” legal defence of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was “alarming” as it was allowing “step-by-step erosion” of Article 370.
Omar was reacting after the Supreme Court on Friday held that the provisions of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002, are within the legislative competence of Parliament and can be enforced in Jammu and Kashmir.
The former chief minister also asked the PDP-BJP coalition government to “come clean on its stand on this vital issue that could have far reaching implications for the state”.
In a statement, Omar said that the “deliberate callousness shown by the State Government indicated the tacit connivance of PDP in allowing the step-by-step erosion of Article 370 through a series of politically patronized cases and litigation”.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday came while deciding a legal question on whether the SARFAESI Act would be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir or was it outside the legislative competence of Parliament since its provisions would collide with Section 140 of the Transfer of Property Act of J&K.
The SARFAESI Act entitles banks to enforce their security interest outside the court’s process by moving a tribunal to take possession of secured assets of the borrower and sell them outside the court process.
The Jammu and Kashmir high court had said that the state has absolute sovereign power to legislate in respect of laws touching the rights of its permanent residents regarding their immovable properties.
The State Bank of India had appealed against the HC verdict.
The SC had also said J-K “has no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India”.
“The State 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 was 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 honourable Supreme Court that Parliament was 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,” Omar said in his statement.
Unfortunately, Omar said, 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”.
Omar wasn’t the only one to voice his concern over the Supreme Court ruling.
Controversial independent legislator Engineer Rashid said that the apex court’s ruling was like a slap for those advocating for restoration of autonomy.
Addressing a gathering in Pattan on Sunday, Rashid said, “Whatsoever Supreme Court has said is nothing new but continuity of the process to proceed for the completer merger of J-K into Indian state.”
“However New Delhi needs to understand that such steps can neither break the will of Kashmiris nor can they be presented as an argument before world community to stop Kashmiris from seeking right to self determination,” he said.
Expectedly, Kashmir’s separatists leadership also rejected the Supreme Court ruling, saying that Jammu and Kashmir is a “separate, independent and sovereign entity.”
“Dozens of UN resolutions stand testimony to the fact that Kashmir is a disputed territory, the final dispensation of which is still pending. India’s top leaders themselves knocked the doors of international forums claiming the disputed nature of Kashmir and this can never be faded or denied by the legal proclamations,” Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik said in a joint statement.
The J&K high court bar association also expressed its “serious concern” over the SC judgment.
“The very application of the SARFAESI Act to the State of J&K was debatable in the context of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, read with other provisions of J&K Transfer of Property Act, etc,” the association said in a statement.
The government defended itself with law minister Abdul Haq Khan describing the Supreme Court ruling as an achievement for the State.
“I have gone through the judgment and read it thoroughly. We have achieved two things in this judgment. First Supreme Court said that Article 370 is a permanent provision of Indian Constitution. And second, Supreme Court has upheld our State subject laws and reiterated that outsiders can’t purchase a movable property in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said in a statement to local news agency KNS.
He also said that while Jammu and Kashmir has a “special status” in Union of India, it is not a sovereign state in itself.