Muzaffar Hussain Baig the senior most leader of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, former Deputy Chief Minister and Presently Member Parliament is one of the leading constitutional experts in India. He was the head of the All Party Committee (APC) that was constituted to sort out the complications in the extension of Amendment 101 of the Indian Constitution for implementation of Goods & Services Tax (GST) in Jammu & Kashmir.

Mired in controversies right from the day one the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party particularly the party president and the incumbent Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti heavily banks upon the advice of Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Presently at the centre of controversy over Article 35-A, the PDP once again is reportedly trying to seek his advice.

Muzaffar Hussain Baig spoke at length to “The Kashmir Magazine” Editor Mohammad Aslam Bhat on both legal and political options which may help the Mehbooba government to protect Article 35-A in the Supreme Court of the country. He also spoke on the current political and security scenario of Jammu & Kashmir state.

Here are the excerpts of his exclusive interview with “The Kashmir Magazine”.

Muzafar Beig (4)

Q: What about the legal challenges to Article 35-A in the Supreme Court? Also tell us all about the central government’s support to J&K Government on petitions against Article 35-A?

A: Now not only one but three petitions, seeking abrogation of Article 35-A, are pending disposal in the Supreme Court. The state government can now engage three top lawyers for contesting the case against Article 35-A. The state government has reasonably good case. As far as the central government’s support to J&K Government on petitions against Article 35-A is concerned, it has three options—support the stand of the state government, oppose the stand of state government or take a line of neutrality. It is for the central government to take any legal course through its Attorney general. The union government, however, cannot influence the Supreme Court to decide one way or the other through political pressure.

Q: What about building political consensus on legal challenges thrown by petitioners on Article 35-A in the Supreme Court of the country?

 A: I had same reservation with the approach of the Chief Minister in holding one to one meeting with National Conference President Farooq Abdullah. More advisable approach could have been to call an all party meeting, inclusive of both Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, at some neutral place. Although I respect Mehbooba ji for her position as Chief Minister and have affection for her as a Sister, yet we can have different views and perceptions on certain matters.

Q: What about Farooq Abdullah threatening 2008 type agitation against Article 35 A abrogation?

A: I don’t see any Wisdom in threatening a 2008 type of agitation as a political response against attempts to abrogate Article 35-A. As all know, the 2008 land row agitation divided the people of the state on communal and regional lines. In 2008 a wrong impression was created among the people that the ownership of state land had been transferred to Amarnath Trust. Land can be transferred to a Trust only by passing an Act by the Legislature as was done in the cases of transfer of land to Muslim University in Shahdara and a Muslim University in South Kashmir. No Act was passed to transfer any land to Amarnath Trust. Only an executive order was passed to allow Yatris to pitch up tents/ fabrications during yatra period. Above all if any person threatens 2008 type agitation against Article 35-A petitions pending in the Supreme Court, he commits a criminal contempt of the court. The court cannot be pressurized.

 Q:  What makes such a warning of an agitation a criminal contempt? Can you offer some legal explanations on this count?

A: As Article 35-A is sub–judice in Supreme Court, a public trial through newspapers and threats or attempts to mobilize public opinion in favour of one party or the other amount to criminal contempt of court. I may refer to the Supreme Court’s 1988 judgment passed in the case titled Reliance Petro Chemicals V/S Indian express which was argued by me.  If you go through this Judgment you will yourself come to know that mobilizing public opinion for or against any issue pending disposal in any court amounts to criminal contempt. You see, the adverse statements regarding matters which at various stages, were pending in the Supreme Court of Pakistan have constributed to the exist of former President General (Retd.) Parvez Musharaff and disqualification of two former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and Nawaz Shariff Pursuant to judgements of that in those cases.

Q: What has been the impact of the Chief Minister meeting with NC President Farooq Abdullah?

A:  It cannot influence the Judgment of the Supreme Court. It has had, however, some unwelcome fallout. The General Secretary of NC has gone on record to claim that it amounts to Mehbooba Mufti admitting her mistake. NC cadres feel emboldened to taunt PDP cadres that “your Chief had finally come to the doors of our Chief and you are our B team now”.

Q: What about the missing of a file related to Article 35- A at the centre? What will be its alleged implications on the judgment of the Supreme Court?

A:  The reported missing of the file related to Article 35- A, after 63 years, is an issue of concern for the reason that this file is a crucially relevant historical document. On The other hand, the legal proceeding and the judgment may get delayed.

Q: Has the NIA jurisdiction to probe allegations against people in Kashmir?

A; Keeping in view the fact that security like defence is a subject over which central government has exclusive jurisdiction, I believe NIA has the jurisdiction to probe allegations connected to security in Jammu & Kashmir. However, one has to examine the relevant statures and the presidential orders passed under Act-370 to see if such Jurisdiction is excluded.

Q: What about the security situation in Kashmir? Was it mishandled last year?

A: Without commenting on the handling of the situation by Police last year I would like to impress upon the government to explore all options for the release of minors and innocents on whom advertantly or inadvertently Public Safety Act (PSA) has been slapped. The five judge judgment of the Supreme Court in Nagaland Human Rights case is the best guiding principle to guide army, CRPF and other paramilitary forces to show maximum restraint in dealing with the situations in any disturbed area.

Q: What about the alienation of youth in Kashmir?

A; In addition to historical reason, a major cause of the alienation of youth in Kashmir is unemployment and slow pace of development. The failure of the state government in implementing centrally sponsored schemes is alarming. I adopted one village in Kupwara three years back and Rajya Sabha MP, Fayaz Mir, adopted another village two years back but shockingly even 5% of the work has not been completed so for. Similarly, the performance of the state government in all the centrally sponsored schemes is dismal. Here in the State, the power sector is a disappointment. PDP-BJP coalition government has completed two and half years in office, but construction of not even a single new power project has been taken up So far, I have taken up the issue of the failure of the state government in the implementation of the centrally sponsored schemes several times with the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti but there appears to be some problem at the lower level. Though we have some able Ministers and outstanding Bureaucrats. Unfortunately, disturbed conditions in South Kashmir have also slowed down development.

Q; What about the central government’s approach on dialogue over Kashmir and resumption of dialogue with Pakistan?

A: We are virtually stock Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken an initiative to travel to Pakistan only with the intent of building a working relationship with that country for resolving the long pending issue of Kashmir. Unfortunately the Pathankote attack spoiled the ground work Prime Minister had done to smoothen relations with Pakistan. I spoke twice at length in Parliament and put on record the sufferings of Kashmir’s who are the worst victims of Partition. I also explained the reasons why some young men were virtually forced to resort to militancy after the rigging of elections in 1987.  I believe the people of Jammu & Kashmir are the worst sufferers of the India-Pakistan hostility. Unfortunately now China is playing a negative role for its own strategic interests. It is virtually in control of PAK and Northern Areas. It has got Army there to safeguard its assets and it will not be happy to see India-Pakistan friendship in foreseeable future. Dialogue, in principle, is always better than use of force, whether in the shape of Militancy or war.

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