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Mehbooba had numbers but BJP wanted Sajad Lone to be the CM of J&K: Satyapal Malik

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Former Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satyapal Malik, once again sought to justify his controversial decision of dissolving the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on November 21, 2018, and shifted the blame on Peoples’ Conference leader, Sajad Lone, and his ambition to ‘indulge in horse-trading’.

In an interview with senior Supreme Court advocate and Rajya Sabha member, Kapil Sibal’s YouTube channel “Dil Se”, Malik said that the decision to dissolve the assembly was his own and not on the diktats of the BJP-government. Though he stood by it, he was tight-lipped about the question of constitutional legality of the assembly dissolution.

Sibal cornered him on the constitutional question of whether the Governor had the powers to dissolve the assembly. To this, Malik first responded, “it was in the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution.”

When Sibal corrected him, “No it isn’t,” Malik responds, “Then how did it happen?”

Sibal then asked him whether there was pressure from the central government to dissolve the assembly, Satyapal Malik responds in the negative, stating that he kept asking for advice but there was no response from the Centre.

The former Governor added, “My own assessment is that they (BJP) wanted that I should invite (Sajad) Lone to form the government. I asked Lone. He didn’t have even six MLAs. But he said that if you let me take over, I can provide you the majority in one week…… I sensed there would be major horse-trading if I allowed that. I told him, this is not my job and I will not do it.”

Malik reiterated that his decision to dissolve the assembly was an attempt to stop any horse-trading. Though he admitted that Mehbooba Mufti had the majority, he said that “several parties were keen that the assembly should be dissolved because they feared that their party members would be weaned away in an attempt of horse-trading. There was increasing threat…….. which is why I dissolved the assembly.”

On Mehbooba Mufti’s claims on November 21, 2018, hours before the dissolution, that they have the numbers to form the government, Malik said that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) leader did not follow the due process.

“Mehbooba had the majority but she faltered in the procedure to stake claim for government formation. They are not made on Twitter. She called for no meeting, there was no proposal, there was no formal support from Farooq Abdullah. Farooq was in Delhi and he said that they would take a call on the matter the following day. The support that her party had was not explicit and formalized. She did not follow the proper norms for staking claim to government formation.”

Sibal questioned him, “but the Governor has no powers to dissolve the assembly and the elected members still had time to try and form the government,” Malik was silent about the legality of the matter.

Sibal reminded him of the similar haste with which Governor’s rule was imposed under N N Vohra, Malik’s predecessor, on June 20, 2018, a day after BJP withdrew its support to the PDP-government.

“I wasn’t there,” Malik responded.

The senior lawyer questioned him about the legality of imposing presidential rule after dissolving the assembly. On December 19, 2018, the central government invoked Article 356, after the expiry of six-months of Governor’s rule, bringing Jammu and Kashmir under President’s rule. “How could this be done? President’s rule can be imposed only when the assembly is in session. How could this be done one month after the dissolution of the assembly?” Sibal asked.

“Woh kya tha? (what was that?)” Malik questioned back, cluelessly.

Kapil Sibal then stated that even the Supreme Court did not decide on this illegality of Article 356 which formed the basis of rest of the decisions (starting from the revocation of Article 370) To this Malik smiled in agreement. “Yes, they didn’t decide on it,” he said and added, “When I dissolved the assembly, several parties went to court against the decision but …..”

“I argued in the case, saying the Governor had no legal authority to dissolve the assembly but the matter of both the dissolution and Article 356 imposition were not adjudicated.”

On 370 abrogation, Malik said this was nothing new. “The BJP had been raking up this issue for a long time and it was a foregone conclusion that they would do it. So, the night before they sent me a draft and told me which needs the approval of the State Administrative Committee by the morning before 11 AM so that it could be tabled and passed in the Parliament,” he said.

He admitted they (BJP-government) sent him orders to sign. “I signed because I approved of the contents of the draft. It was a political decision.”

 

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