India’s move to strip Kashmir of special rights is likely to face legal challenges, constitutional experts and Supreme Court lawyers said, with some questioning the legality of the route used to make the change.
On Monday, Home Minister Amit Shah announced in parliament that the government would scrap the constitution’s Article 370 that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir state and allows permanent residents rights to property and government jobs.
The revocation of the Himalayan territory’s special status is being seen as a bid to fully integrate its only Muslim-majority state with the rest of the country.
To do so, the government used a provision under Article 370 of the constitution that allows the law to be tweaked by a presidential order – provided there is consensus in the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.
One problem, though, is that the constituent assembly of the state was dissolved in 1956.
“They [the government] have not just struck down the provision of 370, but they have actually dismantled the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in the Indian constitution,” Ajai Shukla, a defence analyst in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.
“It now consists of union territories which are centrally governed – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. This is a sort of a radical new provision, which many people are saying will require a constitutional amendment,” he said.
The government has tweaked another constitutional article so that a reference in Article 370 to “constituent assembly of the state” becomes “legislative assembly of the state”. The legality of that move, the lawyers said, could be questioned in court.