Baig questions PDP for ‘going public’ on Article 35-A

INTERVIEW | ‘I haven’t seen Agenda of Alliance and whether it was signed by anybody. If there is such a document, our government should produce it in court’

Muddasir Ali
Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 19 2017 12:08AM | Updated Date: Aug 19 2017 1:28AM
Baig questions PDP for ‘going public’ on Article 35-AFile Photo

Questioning the state government’s move to go public on Article 35-A and turn it into a “political issue,” senior Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig on Friday said the party should have dealt with the issue and Article 370 as per the agenda of alliance (AoA) that would have made it binding on the BJP to defend the state’s special position.

“It (Article 35-A) should have been dealt with in the agenda of alliance just as in the Common Minimum Program (between the erstwhile PDP-Congress government) where we had taken decisions that POTA (prevention of terrorism Act) and task force should go and army crackdown should stop and within days those decisions were implemented…because the document was signed by Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Arjun Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni (on part of Congress) and Mufti Sahab, Mehbooba Ji and me (on part of PDP),” Baig told Greater Kashmir in an exclusive interview.

“I don’t know what understanding they (PDP and BJP) have (on Article 370 and Article 35A). The deputy chief minister recently told media that Agenda of Alliance protects Article 35A and state’s special position. All I am saying is that if there is such a document signed by someone, a proper document—unsigned documents are not taken as evidence by the courts—our government should produce it in the Court,” said Baig.

Baig, who was the deputy chief minister in the PDP-Congress government, reiterated that he hasn’t seen agenda of alliance and whether it was signed by anybody.

“How can I sit on a judgment on the decision taken by Mehbooba Ji and her late father? How do I know about it? I didn’t frame the agenda of alliance,” he said.

The clamour for safeguarding Article 35-A is growing in the state after the Supreme Court which is hearing a petition calling for scrapping of the constitutional provision, has referred the matter to a three-judge bench last month and set a six-week deadline for its final disposal. Though the state filed counter-affidavit in the court seeking dismissal of the petition, the government of India’s decision not to support the state has charged the political atmosphere in the state. Article 35-A empowers the J&K legislature to define permanent residents of the state. It was specifically devised to grant protection to state subject laws that had already been defined under the Maharaja’s rule and notified in 1927 and 1932.

After her meeting with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on August 11, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told reporters that the Prime Minister has assured her that Article 370 and Article 35A will be “respected”.

 “I hope there is such an assurance…If the PM has given this assurance then he will advise his attorney general to support the state’s stand in the Supreme Court. If Modi says something, he does it. If he has given assurance then we will see in the Court that the attorney general will support the case,” said Baig.

The PDP leader said the government shouldn’t have made the issue of Article 35A political and gone public over it as it was “purely a constitutional matter.”

“Our answer should be legal and even if we have to request someone to intervene, it should be done privately and we shouldn’t go public on it,” Baig said, referring to Mehbooba’s meeting with the Prime Minister and repeated references to Article 35A in her recent speeches.

At a function in New Delhi, Mehbooba had warned against any tinkering with Article 35A, saying: “Let me tell you that my party and other parties who carry the national flag there (in Jammu and Kashmir) despite all risks… I have no doubt in saying that there will be no one to hold it (tricolour) if it is tinkered with).”

“I also met two highest authorities in the government of India including home minister when Mehbooba Ji was there. I was doing my job. Mehboob Ji had asked me to meet the home minister. These things are not to be made public, they have to be done behind the scene,” said Baig.

He said the Chief Minister, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and former chief minister Omar Abdullah went public on the issue as they “don’t know the law”.

“Either she (Mehbooba) hasn’t been advised properly or the law minister didn’t know about law or didn’t advise her properly,” said Baig, asserting that if the Article 35A case was defended “firmly and thoroughly”, the constitutional provision won’t be struck down.

Baig, a noted legal luminary, said some time ago the state law minister Abdul Haq Khan had dropped at his residence for a discussion over Article 35A. “I shared some suggestions with the minister on defending the case,” he said.

He said though he wasn’t aware about the state’s stand on the issue in the Court, the state should have also referred to the recent ruling of five-bench in the New Delhi High Court that Article 370 can only be removed on the recommendations of the Constituent Assembly.

He said Article 35A is the product of the Article 370, but has been challenged on the grounds that it violates fundamental rights of citizens from other states of India. But, he said, the Article itself says it can’t be changed on the ground that it violates fundamental rights of those citizens who are not state subjects.

 “This (Article 35A case) is the litmus test for the alliance between PDP and BJP. If the law goes, the repercussions will be huge…the fallout will depend on what stand PDP, NC and others take,” he said.