Interlocuters recommend amendment Constitution to get up Regional Councils

‘MLCs be elected by Councils not MLAs’

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 26: The Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir have recommended wide ranging powers for three proposed Regional Councils for the State by enabling them to effectively implement the State Assembly’s basic legislation by taking into account the specific economic, social and other needs of the people of their regions.
They have proposed that all members of the Legislative Council (the Upper House of the Legislature) should be equally elected by the three Regional Councils instead of present system of their elections by MLAs and nominations by the Government. They suggested amendment in the State Constitution to establish the Councils.
Ruling out separate statehood for Jammu and Union Territory status for Ladakh, the Interlocutors in their report made public by the Ministry of Home Affairs by putting it on the website, recommended that each region shall be endowed with a Regional Council, District Councils and Panchayats (In Ladakh, the Hill Development Councils would serve as District Councils).
“The Governor, the Chief Minister and his Cabinet, the State Assembly and Council, judiciary and State cadre services shall deal with all subjects that need a uniform policy for the State as a whole, subjects that involve expenditure beyond the capacity of the regions, which deal with inter-regional problems and overall subjects that are not delegated to the regions”, the Interlocutors-Dileep Padgaonkar, a veteran journalist, Prof Radha Kumar, an academician and MM Ansari, a former Information Commissioner said in their report.
They recommended that the Legislative Council of J&K should have a fairer representation of three regions.
‘‘Ideally, it should have an equal number of members-11 each to be elected by the Regional Councils”, they said but admitted that it would be a big jump for Ladakh from its present quota of two members. A via media needs to be found, they asserted.
Presently, out of 36 members of Legislative Council, eight were nominated by the Government while four seats were reserved for Panchayats (two each for Jammu and Kashmir divisions) and two for Urban Local Bodies (one each for Jammu and Kashmir division). Rest of the members were elected by the MLAs (the Members of Legislative Assembly).
The Interlocutors’ report recommended that the subjects allocated to the regions should be akin to the subjects allocated to autonomous regions in other States and 27 subjects handled by districts in other parts of the country.
“All subjects within the financial capacity of the regions should be included (in the Regional Councils). A provision similar to Article 249 of the Constitution of India should be included in Jammu and Kashmir Constitution to facilitate, with the consent of the Regional Councils, transfer of subjects from one list to another”, the report said.
The Interlocutors proposed: “ in addition to executive and financial powers allotted to the Regional Councils on the lines of powers made available to Autonomous District Councils on the basis of 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India, the Regional Councils shall be empowered by the State Assembly to pass subordinate, enabling legislation.
“This would enable the Regional Councils to effectively implement the State Assembly’s basis legislation by taking into account the specific economic, social and other needs of the people of the region. The membership of the State’s Public Service Commission will also reflect Jammu and Kashmir’s regional pluralism”.
The report said the composition, election, powers and functions of the Regional Councils shall be based on the points of convergence of various proposals that favoured establishments of such Councils.
‘‘The State Constitution should be amended accordingly to provide for Regional Councils and can include a special provisions on the lines of Article 356 of the Constitution of India to enable the State Government to recommend to the Governor that it should take over the functions of a Regional Council if it didn’t shoulder its responsibilities according to letter and spirit of the Constitution of the State”, the Interlocutors said.
They recommended that members of the Regional Councils shall be elected with representation assured for women, SC/ST/OBCs and displaced communities through reservation of an appropriate number of seats.
They proposed that the Governor shall be authorized to appoint members of minority community, who are not adequately represented in the Councils but their number shall not exceed 10 per cent of total strength of each institution. The MLAs will be ex-officio members with voting rights in Regional Councils.
The Interlocutors proposed that all resources generated within the State will be equitably apportioned to the regions bearing in mind their population size and topography. “This applied for the budget as a whole”.