Kashmir witnesses political furore over Article 35A and GST

Kashmir witnesses political furore over Article 35A and GST

By NOOR-UL-QAMRAIN | SRINAGAR | 6 August, 2017
Kashmir, witnesses, Article 35A, GST, NGO, SC, People’s Democratic Party, PDP,  J&K Goods and Services Tax
The Centre has so far not filed a counter affidavit to an NGO’s writ petition in the SC questioning Article 35A.

Article 35(A) and the Goods and Services Tax Act have created a political furore in Jammu and Kashmir, with the Opposition alleging that they are aimed at diluting the state’s special status and fiscal autonomy. Article 35(A) allows only state subjects of J&K to settle down and buy property here. An NGO, allegedly close to the RSS, recently filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court requesting Article 35(A)’s abrogation. The Centre has so far not filed a counter affidavit to it.

Commenting on the development, the Congress said in Parliament that the extension of GST to J&K would alter the taxation power of the state, as it would no longer have the authority to make laws relating to taxes. Omar Abdullah’s National Conference described GST as the first step to repeal Article 370, which accords special status to J&K.

However, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) contended that the “presidential order” safeguards the special status of the state. 

Senior Cabinet minister Nayeem Akhtar of the PDP called the extension of GST into J&K as the biggest internal Confidence Building Measure from the Centre. He dismissed the contentions of the Opposition, reminding them of two riders—first, the J&K government’s concurrence is mandatory for any decision taken by the GST Council that impinges on the constitutional provisions relating to the state, and second, J&K’s power to legislate under Section 5 of the Constitution of J&K is unaffected. He added that earlier there had been 47 such presidential orders but none of them contained such explicit safeguards for the special status of J&K.

The Lok Sabha passed two bills extending Central GST and Integrated GST to J&K, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitely advocating the same on the ground that it would economically integrate the state to the rest of India. 

Earlier, the J&K Assembly passed the J&K Goods and Services Tax Act 2017, which came into force on 8 July. 

Meanwhile, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti asked the Central government not to tinker with Article 35(A). She warned the Centre that there would not be anybody to hoist the Tricolour in Kashmir in that eventuality. 

Article 35(A) empowers J&K legislators to define permit residence of the state and was added to Article 35 through a Presidential order called the Constitution Order, 1954, issued under Article 370. 

The BJP in its Assembly election manifesto had promised that it would give voting rights to all the settlers in Jammu and would also give land at cheap rates to retired Army officials in all the major towns of J&K.

The National Conference has accused the PDP of encouraging the Central government to take steps that would erode J&K’s special status. 

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