Autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir: Structure and limitations (Article 370)

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India’s constitution is a federal structure. The subjects for legislation are divided into a ‘Union List’, a ‘State List’ and a ‘Concurrent List’. The Union List of ninety-six subjects, including defence, military and foreign affairs, major transport systems, commercial issues like banking, stock exchanges and taxes, are provided for the Union government to legislate exclusively. The State List of sixty-six items covering prisons, agriculture, most industries and certain taxes, are available for States to legislate on. The Concurrent List, on which both the Centre and States may legislate include criminal law, marriage, bankruptcy, trade unions, professions and price control. In case of conflict, the Union legislation takes precedence. The ‘residual power’, to make laws on matters not specified in the Constitution, rests with the Union. The Union may also specify certain industries, waterways, ports etc. to be ‘national’, in which case they become Union subjects.

In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the ‘Union List’ and the ‘Concurrent List’ were initially curtailed to the matters ceded in the Instrument of Accession, but they were later extended with the concurrence of the State Government. The ‘residual power’ continues to rest with the State rather than the Union. According to the State Autonomy Committee, ninety-four of the ninety-seven items in the Union List currently apply to Jammu and Kashmir. The provisions of the Central Bureau of Intelligence and Investigation and preventive detention do not apply. Of the ‘Concurrent List’, twenty-six of the forty-seven items apply to Jammu and Kashmir. The items of marriage and divorce, infants and minors, transfer of property other than agricultural land, contracts and torts, bankruptcy, trusts, courts, family planning and charities have been omitted, i.e., the State has exclusive right to legislate on those matters. The right to legislate on elections to state bodies also rests with the State.

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