Recently, Rajya Sabha passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Bill. Passed by Lok Sabha last week, the Bill partially amends a Presidential Order of 1954 in order to amend the state’s Reservation Act. The amendments were earlier effected through an ordinance after these had been approved by the Union Cabinet in February this year.

The amendments
With the constitutional amendments, the benefits of reservation available to the residents along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) have been extended to residents living along the International Border (IB). This benefits residents in Jammu, Samba and Kathua.

Through the Presidential Order, the Cabinet applied the 77th Constitutional Amendment of 1995 to J&K, giving benefits of reservation in promotion to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government service. The Cabinet also applied the 103rd Constitutional Amendment of 2019 to J&K, which gave 10% reservation to Economically Weaker Sections among people in the general category.

The controversy
While bringing the ordinance, the Union government said the constitutional amendments were recommended by the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik.

While no one in J&K has opposed the decision to provide benefits to SCs, STs and EWS, there has been opposition to the route taken by the Centre and its nominee the J&K Governor, on the ground that they “breached” Article 370 while issuing the amendment to the 1954 Presidential Order. The 1954 order is an executive order issued by the President under Article 370 to extend provisions of an Act of Parliament to J&K State, which can be done only with the concurrence of the state government.

What regional parties say
Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have termed the amendments “unconstitutional”. The regional parties contend that “concurrence” means the concurrence of an elected government, and not that of a nominated government, is a must for any amendment to the Presidential Order of 1954, and that this is thus in contravention of Article 370.

They contend that the government means an elected government and that the President cannot seek concurrence of the Governor because “the Governor is a representative of the President”.