[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n Jammu and Kashmir, only tricolour will flutter across Government buildings and on vehicles of Constitutional authorities. A division bench of the J@K High Court on Friday stayed the December 27 order of a single bench, which directing the Government to ensure that State’s own flag – red and white with three vertical stripes and a plough – was also hoisted on Government building and put atop vehicles of ministers and other Constitutional authorities.
The single bench judge had cited Article 370 of the Indian constitution giving special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir to justify his decision.
The division bench of Jammu branch of Jammu and Kashmir High Court consisting of Justices BL Bhat and Tashi Rabstan stayed the December 27 order of Justice Hasnain Massodi on hoisting of state flag. Former IGP and BJP leader Farooq Khan had challenged Justice Massodi’s judgment.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]ncidentally, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared dais with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed during the latter swearing-in as state’s chief minister, two flags were there on the table.
The judgement has evoked sharp reaction with former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah leading the pack. Omar trashed the order, saying as long the state was part of India, two flags shall also be there.
“Here’s what I’ll say – so long as J&K is a part of India the two flags will continue to fly & we’ll take pride in it. “ Omar Abdullah tweeted.
In a second tweet, Omar said, “Why is only J&K expected to respect the terms of accession while the rest of the country can disregard them with impunity?”
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n his order on December 27, Justice Masoodi had said, “It is obligatory on every citizen as well as on every constitutional authority to maintain the sanctity of, and respect, the state flag in terms of the constitutional provisions and the Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Insult to State Honours Act, 1979.”
Section 144 of the state constitution makes it mandatory to hoist the state flag along with the national flag on all government buildings which houses offices of constitutional authorities as well as on official vehicles.
The latest order could widen the fault line that exists between the PDP and BJP coalition government in the state. The state’s flag has an emotional appeal for the people in the valley, and so far all the BJP ministers have also been using it on their vehicles and offices.
In fact, the General Administration Department (GAD) under Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had issued a circular on March 12 making it mandatory for all Constitutional authorities to use the state flag on their vehicles.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he circular read: “All the constitutional authorities are enjoined upon to maintain the sanctity of the state flag, at all costs, as is being done in respect of the Union Flag. The flag shall always be hoisted jointly on the buildings housing constitutional institutions and shall be used on the official cars of constitutional authorities. Any deviation in this regard shall amount to insult to the Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Insult to State Honors Act, 1979.”
After the BJP mounted strong pressure, the Chief Minister was forced to withdraw the circular within the 24 hours, saying such circular was not needed in view of the fact that use of state’s flag was part of the state’s constitution. The BJP ministers also continued to use both the flags on their offices and vehicles.
This time around, things could be different. Now that the Court has ruled against hoisting of two flags, the BJP ministers would be under pressure from their supporters to use only the tricolor. This could invite sharp backlash against the Mufti government and give fresh ammunition to the separatist forces in the valley.
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