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Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023

  • Category
    Polity
  • Published
    9th Dec, 2023

Context

The LokSabha recently passed two significant bills related to Jammu and Kashmir, namely the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

About

Aims

These bills aim to reshape the political landscape of the region and address long-standing issues, including the representation of displaced communities in the legislative assembly. 

Background

  • In August 2019, the Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 was revoked, leading to the reorganisation of the state into two Union Territories - Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
  • The recent bills build upon this transformation, further amending the existing legislation for better governance and representation.
  • Earlier there were 37 seats in Jammu which have now become 43, earlier there were 46 seats in Kashmir which have now become 47, and 24 seats have been kept reserved for Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
  • The legislative assembly initially had 100 members including 24 for PoK, up to 1988 when the seats were increased to 111.
  • The 24 seats are however not taken into consideration during the quorum calculation, which is why the total contestable seats were 87 including four for Ladakh.
  • After delimitation in 2020, the total number of seats rose to 114, which included the seats for PoK.
  • Now there will be 114 seats, earlier there were two nominated members in the assembly, now there will be five

Provisions of the New Bills:

  • The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks to increase the total number of seats in the J&K Assembly from 107 to 114.
  • This includes the reservation of nine seats for Scheduled Tribes, a historic move based on the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission.
  • Additionally, the Lieutenant-Governor is empowered to nominate three members in the Assembly, representing the Kashmiri migrant community, including one woman, and individuals from PoK who sought refuge in India after wars with Pakistan.
  • The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, amends the J&K Reservation Act, 2004.
  • It replaces the term "weak and underprivileged classes (social castes)" with "other backward classes" as declared by the Union Territory.
  • This change aims to enhance reservation in appointments and admissions in professional institutions for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and other socially and educationally backward

Opposition's Concerns:

  • During the parliamentary debate, concerns were raised by the Opposition regarding the government's control from Delhi, reservations for specific communities, and the exclusion of certain groups.
  • Some members criticized the emphasis on Pandits and the Pahadia community, arguing that the criteria of population were not adequately considered during the delimitation exercise.
  • The Opposition also questioned the government's claims of bringing lasting peace to the region, pointing to incidents of terrorism in the Jammu region.
  • There were objections to the nomination of members by the Governor, raising apprehensions about a potential imbalance in the representation of the Muslim-majority Valley.

Government's Clarifications:

  • The bills aim to provide justice to those deprived of their rights for the past 70 years.
  • Highlighted the importance of reservation for displaced people, ensuring their voices are heard in the legislative process.
  • Rejected the notion that the amendments were connected to the abrogation of Article 370 and clarified that the government's focus is on eliminating separatist ideology, leading to a decline in terrorism.
  • Dismissed claims that the bills couldn't be amended due to a legal challenge, asserting that there is a "status quo" as the Supreme Court has not stayed the implementation of the principal Act.

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