SCS needs no legislation

Published by Metro India News on September 13, 2016 00:35:35 AM

PRK Prasad :

The clamour for the special category status for Andhra Pradesh has reached its peak.

Does the Special Category Status issue really need to be included in the legislation. Certainly not, feel legal luminaries if they are demanding for Special Category Status and not Special Status

The ruling dispensations both at the Centre and in the State claim that it was not included in the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act-2014 and thus it is not possible to accord it to the State, the Opposition parties continue to press take on the agitational path to press for the demand. Does the Special Category Status issue really need to be included in the legislation. Certainly not, feel legal luminaries if they are demanding for special category status and not special status.

Clearing the air between the terms ‘special status’ and ‘special category status’, these legal experts feel that both the terms have a huge difference between them. While the special status is guaranteed by the Constitution of India through an Act passed by the two-third majority in both Houses of Parliament, as in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, whereas the special category status is granted by the National Development Council (NDC), an administrative body of the Government, they say.

While the special status empowers legislative and political rights to the States, special category status deals only with economic, administrative and financial aspects, they argue. There are three principal differences between a State accorded the 'special category status' and a State with a special status. First, the special status like that of Jammu and Kahmir is guaranteed by the Constitution while in the case of the special category status it is not.

The special category status is decided by an executive order. In fact, the body that grants the special category status, the National Development Council (NDC) to a State is itself the creation of an administrative fiat. Second, special status is empowered position of legislative power and political rights. As against this, a special category status is only an economic and administrative category with some fringe financial benefits.

Third, the power to grant special category status lies with the National Development Council, composed of the Prime Minster, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and members of the Planning Commission, now NITI Ayog. On the other hand, the power to grant a special status is only in the ambit of Parliament and that too with a two third majority, they clarify. Which is why, while eight States have been added to the special category list since 1970, the special status State has remained the same since 1951.

The eight North Eastern States too have only a special status under Article 371, Sub-Clause (A to G), akin to that of Jammu and Kashmir, accorded by Article 370. However, a comparison of the two Articles unambiguously shows that Article 371 and its sub clauses is limited only to protecting religious practices, tribal culture, and customary law of that region. While in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370 explicitly provides an autonomous status to the State by vesting the residuary powers with the State Government.

As such, the special status of Jammu and Kahmir in the Union predates and over-rides it being classified as a special category status by the Planning Commission in 1969. The rationale for inclusion in the special category was features like a low resource base, hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or sizeable share of tribal population, and strategic location. From this criteria as also the deliberations of the NDC meeting, it is clear that it is a developmental classification.

Quite significantly, even though Jammu and Kashmir is one of the first special category States along with Assam and Nagaland, it did not get the financial benefits that come along with it in 1990. The liberalised plan assistance in the form of 90 per cent grant and 10 per cent loan was not given to Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, like other States, the plan assistance came in the form of 70 per cent loans and 30 per cent grant.

It was only in 1989, when Farooq Abdullah, in his flippant style, argued that militancy had arisen in Jammu and Kashmir because it was not being given liberal form of Central assistance, that the Centre agreed to change it and gave it as a sop with effect from 1991. Later that year, the Rangarajan Committee on Special Category States recommended that the date of application of liberalised part of Central assistance to Jammu and Kashmir be advanced from April 1, 1991 to April 1, 1990.

Other than the higher component of grants in the Central assistance to State plans, the only other benefit that accrues to the special category States is that of excise duty concessions for attracting industries to relocate or locate manufacturing units within their territory. Andhra Pradesh is asking for special category status and certainly not special status. This special category status, however, is granted by the National Development Council (NDC), which is an administrative body of the Centre.

This status is usually based on the NDC recommendations. Basing on the parameters like low resource base, hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or sizeable share of tribal population, backwardness, border States, sharing the international border, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of State finances, the NDA makes the recommendations. Andhra Pradesh meets at least two criteria of this.

Though special category status is not part of the AP State Reorganisation Act-2014, passed by Parliament when the UPA was in power, it was promised by then prime minister Manmohan Singh on the floor of the Rajya Sabha on February 20, 2014 to put the State’s finances on a “firmer footing.” He promised the status for five years while the BJP, which was in Opposition then also joined the chorus and demanded that the period be extended to 10 years instead.

However after the BJP-led NDA came to power there has been no move to give the status to the State. This has further angered the people of Andhra Pradesh.They began arguing that the status was not included in the Act, which is, as per these legal experts is not correct. "They are only taking shelter under this pretext. Absolutely there is no need to include it in the act. The special status and the special category status are totally different," said senior practicing advocate in the High Court of Judicature in Hyderabad K Ramachandra Rao.

The NDC can simply pass a resolution to give the status, he feels. Former MP Vundavalli Arun Kumar, who is also an advocate, concurred with his opinion. "I have made it clear on several platforms but the NDA Government nor the TDP Government in the State has not paid any heed to it," he told Metro India. Senior most advocate in the Supreme Court Lilly Thomas felt that the NDC is also an administrative wing and it can not take a decision on its own.

"The ruling dispensations have to make a recommendation to it basing on which the NDC passes a resolution on the special category status," she felt. All of them are amply clear that the claims that it is not included in the Act are only false. There is absolutely no need for special category status either to be part of a legislation or to be passed by Parliament.