Controversy Over An Amendment Bill May Wreck The House

Saima Bhat

In an avowed claim to strengthen Panchayat Raj institution (PRI), Mehbooba Mufti, the opposition leader, demands incorporation of the spirit of 73rd amendment in the Panchayat Raj Act in Jammu and Kashmir. “I have already sent a bill for incorporation but the bill was rejected”.

Mehbooba Mufti while addressing the media after first session of J&K Assembly

While displaying the bill, after the first session of Assembly was over, on the subject duly endorsed by the secretary Legislative Assembly, Mehbooba Mufti said, “I fear the bill may be sabotaged because the government seems non-serious about the issue.”

Mehooba said, “The bill was brought by two PDP MLAs Peerzada Mansoor Hussain and Rafi Ahmad Mir and was endorsed by secretary legislative assembly on September 18 for the process but the government is saying that they didn’t receive any bill.”

However Mohammad Akbar Lone, Speaker legislative assembly when contacted said, “Yes we have received the said bill from two PDP MLAs on 18th September but it should have been presented before this house by or before September 10. Thus the bill was rejected on that basis only which I conveyed to them.”

And further on the amendment of the bill, M A Lone said, “I think there is confusion regarding the amendment of the bill. Parties have right to move a bill but it has already been rejected. Jammu and Kashmir cannot adopt the 73rd amendment directly as it is part of Indian Constitution.”

However, the amendment is supposed to empower the PRI. Presently the main opposition and the government coalition partner Congress, both are leading a campaign against Omar Abdullah seeking incorporation of the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Indian constitution in J&K. Both NC and PDP believe it is not possible to adopt the amendments but its features could be adopted to amend the law.

Apparently there is a difference between the Panchayat Raj act of the Lok Sabha and the state law which has distinct features like Panchayat courts but has serious limitations on the reservations for women and lack of an elected leader as head of the district development council.

But J&K government is keen to continue its ministers as chairman of the district development boards with an elected Panch becoming a non-executive co-chairman. This is aimed at retaining control over the allocation of funds and creating priorities of its own on development front – something that Congress and PDP are opposed to.

The PDP president says that her party wants the chairman and vice chairman of the District Development and Planning Boards to be duly elected and not nominated by the government.

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