*Panchayat, VAT, Property Acts held-up
JAMMU, Feb 4: Following abrupt adjournment of the Legislature on February 1 amidst pandemonium over Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Article 370 remarks, the Government was likely to take Ordinance route for half a dozen legislations, which required urgent approval of the Legislature but couldn’t be taken up. The two Ordinances, already promulgated by Governor NN Vohra including the one pertaining to fulfillment of requisite formalities for holding of Panchayat elections, have to be re-promulgated as they would complete six months in the absence of Legislature.
An Ordinance is promulgated by the Governor on approval of the State Cabinet if the Legislature is not in session. However, the Ordinance is required to get nod of the Legislature within six months of its promulgation or, otherwise, it had to be re-promulgated for another six months by the Governor.
Official sources told the Excelsior that nine very significant bills, which the Government had listed for approval of the Legislature, have been stalled as both Houses (Legislative Assembly and Council) were adjourned abruptly on February 1 amidst ruckus created by the Opposition over Chief Minister’s Article 370 remarks and Speaker Kavinder Gupta’s announcement on expunging them.
The bills had to be tabled in the House on February 2 or 3 and then listed for approval of the State Assembly on February 7 and Council on February 8. The legislations were scheduled for Cabinet approval on December 31 but the Cabinet meeting was postponed after differences surfaced between the two coalition partners-PDP and BJP-over the Chief Minister and the Speaker’s remarks.
Sources admitted that very significant legislative business has been stalled due to sudden adjournment of the Legislature sine die and the Government now has been left with no options but to take the Ordinance route and approach the Governor to promulgate Ordinances for the bills, which required immediate enforcement.
The two Ordinances, which had already been promulgated by the Governor last year including the one for holding Panchayat elections, would also be required to get re-promulgated after the expiry of six months as there seems to be no immediate Legislature session in sight.
The Panchayati Raj Ordinance had vested the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K with holding the elections to Panchayats in the absence of State Election Commission (SEC) including re-organization of constituencies, reservations and rotation of Wards and completing other formalities.
To replace the Ordinance, the Government had proposed to bring legislation in the Assembly but it couldn’t get the Cabinet nod, the meeting of which was deferred on January 31.
A very significant legislation that was listed for approval of the Legislature was amendment in Jammu and Kashmir Transfer of Property (Amendment) bill, mooted by the Revenue Ministry. It proposed to enable the Government to transfer or lease out land in favour of Jammu and Kashmir Energy Development Agency (JKEDA), working under the administrative control of Science and Technology Department, for construction of small hydro projects up to 10 MW capacity and solar energy projects.
The bill proposed to amend Section 140 of Jammu and Kashmir Transfer of Property Act to include JAKEDA in the exemption list to facilitate it to acquire immovable property for development of solar and small hydro projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The bill was of very urgent nature and required immediate approval of the Legislature to help construction of solar and small hydro projects. But in the absence of Legislature nod, the Government now might opt for Ordinance route,” sources said.
The Governor had approved another significant Ordinance, pertaining to the Finance Ministry, which proposed inclusion of Assistant Commissioners as Assessing Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir Value Added Tax Act. The Governor had issued the Ordinance on September 28, 2016, which will expire on March 28 this year and would require to be promulgated again in the absence of any Legislature session in the near future.
There was yet another important bill of the Finance Ministry pertaining to an amendment in Jammu and Kashmir Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, which has been stalled due to abrupt adjournment of the Legislature.
The Act proposed to use capital receipts for creation of productive assets and borrowings over and above the existing fiscal deficit limit for the purpose of clearing past liabilities and creation of fresh assets, sources said, adding the Act too required to be promulgated urgently and the Government might opt to go for Ordinance on it.
The Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs too had proposed very important legislation for the Cabinet approval followed by introduction and nod of the Legislature.
Through new law, the Government proposed prohibition on hoarding and profiteering on notified commodities in the State to secure equitable distribution of notified commodities and their availability at fair prices during exceptional situations.
The bill provided for regulating the prices, production movement transport, supply, distribution, stock limits, disposal of sale of the articles. It also provided restriction on the possession and sale by the dealer and producers on excess limit specified in the bill apart from proposing penalty and punishment for contravention of the provisions.
The Finance Minister had also proposed another important legislation that sought sanction to the transfer of administration of J&K Passenger Taxation Act from Jammu and Kashmir Commercial Taxes Department to Motor Vehicle Department. It also sought creation of posts in J&K Motor Vehicle Department under respective allotted major head with corresponding reduction of the posts in the Commercial Taxes Department.
Another bill was proposed for introduction by the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs that proposed to check indiscriminate use of polythene, which had health and environmental hazards.
Two other bills, which were proposed for approval of the Cabinet followed by introduction and approval of the Legislature, aimed to revise taxes, being levied by the designated authorities under Jammu and Kashmir Motor Vehicles Taxation Act and updation of Jammu and Kashmir Fisheries Act, which had become obsolete as it was 113 years old.