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With Art.370 Gone, Can Art.371 Restore J&K's Status? Here Are Other States That Enjoy Special Provisions

File Photo of Srinagar's Lal Chowk

File Photo of Srinagar's Lal Chowk

The Indian Constitution extends special provisions to quite a few states. Here's a look at them.

Restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir became a talking point as Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the leaders of parties from the state in the Centre’s first political outreach following the abrogation of Art.370 in August 2019. Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah said it cannot be expected that Art.370 would be restored, but a former deputy chief minister of the state, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, suggested that the Centre could use Art.371 to extend special provisions to J&K, including on permanent residents of the state. Although J&K’s special status was unique in India, Art.371 does include special provisions for 11 other states, mostly in the Northeast. Here’s a look at how the Indian Constitution has extended special provisions to different states.

What Is Article 371? How Is It Different From Art.370?

Both Article 370 and 371 are included in Part XXI of the Constituion of India, which deals with ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’. However, Art.370 was specific to J&K while the various clauses of Art.371 cover separate states, from Maharasthra to Mizoram and Assam to Andhra Pradesh.

Art.370 was a part of the Constitution right from when it was inaugurated in 1950 and was included as a result of negotiations between Kashmiri leaders led by Sheikh Abdullah, the father of former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah, and the the Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru. Among the key provisions it enabled was for J&K to have its own constitution and, resultantly, to make its own rules regarding permanent citizens of the state via Art.35A.

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But with the abrogation of August 2019, J&K lost its special status and all articles of the Indian Constitution now apply to the state and the privilege conferred by Art.35A, too, stands abolished.

Art.371 does not have the same wide ambit as what Art.370 did vis-a-vis J&K and only contains specific provisions that mainly recognise social, cultural and religious practices in the different states.

What’s The Modi Govt’s Take On Art.371?

Following the abrogation of Art.370 Union Home Minister Amit Shah had clarified that there were no plans to remove the special provisions for other states enshrined in Art.371. Removal of Art.370 was a long-standing aim of the BJP and also found mention in the party’s manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“I have clarified in Parliament that this (scrapping of Art.371) is not going to happen and I am saying it again… that the Centre will not touch Article 371", Shah had said in Guwahati weeks after the abrogation of Art.370. While Art.371 itself concerns special provisions for Maharashtra and Gujarat and was part of the Constitution right from its inception, the remaining clauses dealing with the other states were added later through amendments.

Which States Have Special Provisions Under Art.371?

The earliest of the special provisions under this article were extended to the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It allows the President of India, among other things, to ask the governor of the states to issue a special order for “the establishment of separate development boards for Vidarbha, Marathwada (or, the rest of Maharashtra) or Saurashtra, Kutch and the rest of Gujarat" and ensure “equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the said areas".

Art.371A has detailed provisions for Nagaland. The jey feature is that the Parliament of India cannot legislate on any matter touching upon the “religious or social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, (and) ownership and transfer of land and its resources", unless the Nagaland Assembly votes to accept it.

Art.371B covers Assam and allows the President to order the formation of an Assembly committee, or multiple committes, consisting of members elected from specific tribal areas.

Art.371C says the President may call for the creation of “a committee of the Legislative Assembly of the state consisting of members… elected from the Hill Areas of that state". Also, “the executive power of the Union

shall extend to the giving of directions" to Manipur regarding the administration of the Hill Areas.

Art.371D concerns Andhra Pradesh and, after its bifurcation, to Telangana as well and empowers the President to provide for “equitable opportunities and facilities for the people belonging to different parts of the state, in the matter of public employment and in the matter of education". It further allows the President to make “different provisions… for various parts of the state". The President may also ask the state government to set up different local administrative cadres “for different parts of the state". Art.371E says that the “Parliament may by law provide for the establishment of a university" in Andhra Pradesh, which was done in the form of the Hyderabad Central University in 1974.

The Sikkim Assemby is not allowed to have “less than 30 members" under Art.371F, which pertains to the state.

For Mizoram, Art.371G says that no Act of Parliament will apply to the state without the assent of the state Assembly if it seeks to regulate the “religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law, (and) ownership and transfer of land". The provisions for Mizoram are akin in this respect to that governing Nagaland. Art.371G also says that the Mizoram Assembly shall consist of “not less than 40 members".

Art.371H confers “special responsibility with respect to law and order" on the governor of Arunachal Pradesh and also says that the state Assembly shall have a minimum of 30 members.

The Goan Assembly, too, has its strength mandated by a special provision with Art.371I saying that it “shall consist of not less than 30 members".

With Art.371J, Karnataka is the last state that enjoys special provisions. Under this Act, the state government can establish a separate development board for the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.

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first published:July 04, 2021, 13:23 IST