Replacing J&K's 'sadr-e-riyasat' unconstitutional: HC

Fifty years after the sadr-e-riyasat - the erstwhile head of state of Jammu and Kashmir - was replaced by a centrally-appointed governor, the J&K High Court on Saturday called the move unconstitutional. However, the court asked the state legislature to decide on the matter.

The court, while delivering a judgment on a petition over hoisting the state flag at offices of constitutional authorities, termed the amendment passed by the assembly in 1965 as being against the ''basic structure of the constitution''.

''The elective status of head of the state (sadr-e-riyasat) was an important attribute of constitutional autonomy enjoyed by the state, a part of the 'basic framework' of the state constitution, and therefore not within the amending power of the state legislature,'' a bench of Justice Hasnain Massodi said.

Till 1965, Jammu and Kashmir used to have a sadr-e-riyasat as the head of the state - with the power of appointing him vested in the assembly - and a prime minister. However, in April that year, the state assembly under Prime Minister G M Sadiq brought in the Sixth Amendment Act - changing the nomenclatures of sadr-e-riyasat and prime minister to governor and chief minister respectively.

The high court, however, said the move was unconstitutional because the state legislature lacks the power to make such amendments.

Stating that the head of state should be elected by the people through their representatives in the assembly, the court added, ''The constitutional autonomy guaranteed to the state is the basic structure of the state constitution and beyond amending power available to the state legislature under section 147 of the Constitution.''

The court, however, left it to the state legislators to ''rectify the error''.

Senior lawyers like Zafar Shah said the high court observation was a reaffirmation of the constitutional autonomy of the state. Independent legislator Engineer Abdul Rashid is already considering taking ''necessary measures to rectify mistakes made in the past''. He plans to table a bill in the assembly seeking the restoration of the sadr-e-riyasat post.