Only 10% of legislators can become ministers in J-K as Union Territory

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At a time when the political parties are gearing up to take part in the assembly elections, likely to be held next year, there would be no more than 10 percent of the Council of Ministers in the Legislative Assembly under the newly-established Union Territory (UT) of Jammu Kashmir.

The political parties in Jammu and Kashmir [J-K] are consistently demanding for the restoration of the statehood before the assembly polls, however, the Government of India (GoI) has maintained that the statehood would only be restored after delimitation of constituencies followed by assembly elections.

On 24 October, home minister Amit Shah during his three day visit to the erstwhile state while laying out the “roadmap” for the J-K, said that the statehood would be restored only after the elections.

“There will be delimitation. After that, there will be elections, and after that statehood will be restored. I have stated it in Parliament. And this is the roadmap,” Shah said at a youth club in Srinagar.

Shah also reviewed security arrangements in the Valley in the wake of a spate of militant attacks targeting minority communities.

As the speculations about the assembly elections are likely to be held by May-June next year, political parties in J-K have increased their political activities with all the major leaders holding rallies, and interacting sessions across Jammu and Kashmir.

On 5 August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through presidential order scrapped the special status of Jammu Kashmir and split it into two Union Territories (UT) – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

So what powers will ministers have in UT Assembly

As per the J-K Reorganization Bill 2019, there shall be a Council of Ministers (CoM) consisting of not more than 10 percent of the total number of Members in the Legislative Assembly.

The ministers shall hold office at the “pleasure” of the Lieutenant Governor.

The bill reads that the chief minister would be the head and advise the Lt. Governor in the exercise of his functions in relation to matters with respect to which the Legislative Assembly has power to make laws.

“If at any time, except when the Legislative Assembly is in session, the Lieutenant Governor thereof is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such ordinances as the circumstances appear to him to require,” it said.

As per the act, the Lt Governor in exercise of his functions, acts in his discretion in a matter related to All India Services (AIS) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

“The Lieutenant Governor shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in his discretion in a matter which falls outside the purview of the powers conferred on the Legislative Assembly or in which he is required by or under any law to act in his discretion or to exercise any judicial functions related to All India Services and Anti Corruption Bureau,” the bill said.

“The Lieutenant Governor shall, from time to time, summon the Legislative Assembly to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next session,” the bill reads.

Similarly, under the new act, the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of Jammu Kashmir would be increased from 107 to 114, and delimitation of the constituencies may be determined by the Election Commission (EC).

“All constituencies shall, as far as practicable, be geographically compact areas, and in delimiting them, regard shall be had to physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and conveniences to the public and constituencies in which seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall, as far as practicable, be located in areas where the proportion of their population to the total population is the largest,” the bill reads.

Political experts believe that under the UT, any party who would form the government would have minimal powers in the decision making vis-à-vis the state affairs.

Political analyst Sheikh Showkat said the administrative powers in UT are tilted in the favor of the LG.

“In UT, the highest power lies with LG. The government has to be subservient to the LG’s orders,” Showkat said.

Showkat said the main difference between States and the Union Territories is the functioning of the administration.

“In the States we have a Governor who has a power equivalent to that of the President,   but it is the government which runs the administration and makes law. However, in UT, it is the GoI who runs the state through the LG,” he said.

In India only three UT’s — Andaman and Nicobar, Delhi and Puducherry — have LGs.

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