Why Only Article 370?

By Mansoor Ahmad Ajazi

Some narrow-minded people not only question the necessity of article 370 in the Constitution of India, but they demand its removal. Antagonists of article 370 should know that there is also an article 371 in the Constitution of India which is similar in nature of article 370.

Let me first explain what is article 370? Article 370 has been incorporated in our constitution to grant some special status and privileges to the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). These include the sanction to frame a constitution for the state and restrict the power of Parliament to frame laws for J&K. It is a historical fact that when the Maharaja of J&K decided to accede the state in India, provision for a separate constitution for the state was also included in the agreement with Govt. of India.

Our nation is like a flowerpot of different religions, castes, races, languages, cultures, traditions and customs. The founding fathers of our constitution were wise people with a distant vision. They felt that a uniform law cannot be enforced in the length and breadth of the country. It is why the constitution was made flexible and sentiments of all were kept in mind. In part iii under the head of fundamental rights vide article 15, discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, race, sex or place of birth is prohibited, whereas under article 29, citizens of the country have been empowered with right to protect their languages, scripts and cultures.

In the light of the above-mentioned rights some relaxations have been granted to a number of states and regions. Many people may not be aware of the fact that when the land reforms act 1950 was enacted in united Bihar, zamindari was abolished whereas in some parts of Bihar, which is now Jharkhand, zamindari in tribal areas was left intact and this continues till date. In Jharkhand for Chotanagpur region “Chotanagpur tenancy act” and for Santhal Praganas region “Santhal Praganas tenancy act” is in vogue. In the name of ‘Mundari Khuntkatti’, ‘Korkar, ‘Bhuinhari’ and others zamindari still continues in that region. In 1969 ‘Bihar Scheduled Areas Regulation Act’ was passed by which tribals of the region, which is now Jharkhand, were given rights to take back land free of cost which were transferred to non-tribals 30 years before the enactment of the said act. Though these laws are contrary to articles 13 & 31(A) of the constitution but these have been legalised constitutionally by incorporating them in article 31(B) & ninth schedule of the constitution. In the ninth schedule of the constitution, there are altogether 284 acts which have been included to validate special provisions for the citizens of almost all the states of the Indian Union. In addition to this, protagonists of uniform civil code should know that in Kolhan area of West Singhbhum district of Bihar, now Jharkhand, civil procedure code is not in vogue. In Kolhan area, civil cases are decided by a special law called ‘Kolhan act’.  

Thus the state of J&K is not an exception for which special provisions have been made in the constitution. In fact, special provisions have been made vide article 371 of the constitution to protect the rights including culture and custom of various states of this country. Whereas article 370 is a temporary arrangement, article 371 has special status. Under article 371, people of different states have been accorded special concessions as is obvious from the following facts:

Vide article 371, provisions have been made to establish development boards for Vidarbha, Marathwada and Saurashtra regions of Maharashtra and Kutch region of Gujarat, as well as for equitable and adequate facilities in technical education, vocational training and adequate opportunities of employment in govt. services in these regions.

Vide article 371(A) and371(G), special provisions have been made for the states of Nagaland and Mizoram by which no act of parliament in respect of their religion or social practices, customary law and practices, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to their customary laws, ownership and transfer of land shall apply to the states of Nagaland and Mizoram unless the legislative assembly of the respective state by a resolution decides so.

Vide article 371(B & C), specific provisions have been made to constitute special committees and other privileges for the tribal areas of Assam and Manipur. According to article 371(D),there are special provisions in respect of the state of Andhra Pradesh for equitable opportunities and facilities for the people belonging to different parts of that state. Vide article 371(H), governor of Arunachal Pradesh has been empowered with special responsibility for law and order in that state. Besides these as per article 371(F & I), special provisions have been made for the states of Sikkim and Goa respectively.

From the perusal of above-mentioned facts it is crystal clear that the article 370 for J&K is not the only such provision inserted in the constitution. Rather, special provisions have been made vide article 371 for other states also, viz., Assam, Andhra, Tripura, Manipur, Goa, Sikkim, Nagaland, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Beside these, there are 284 laws pertaining to almost all the states and Union territories of the country which are contrary to Constitution of India but they have been legalised and protected by a special article 31(B) in the constitution. Over and above these, laws have also been framed for the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur vide articles 244 & 275. As such the question arises why so much hue and cry to repeal the article 370? Why not the antagonists of article 370 demand repeal of articles 31(B), 244, 275 and 371 also. Justice demands that all those articles should be repealed or they all should continue to facilitate the people of all parts of the country to come together in the national mainstream and prosper.

The author is a former Joint Secretary to Govt. of Bihar

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2012 on page no. 2

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