As India elects its next president on July 18, the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will not be a part of the exercise for the second time in the history of the election to the top constitutional post. There have been precedents of legislative assemblies of states not being part of the presidential polls on account of their dissolution, the first such instance being of Gujarat in 1974.
The assemblies of Assam, Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir too could not participate in subsequent elections on account of dissolution. In the present case, the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be constituted after the erstwhile state was bifurcated into the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in 2019.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act provides for a Legislative Assembly for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, but the election is yet to be held due to various reasons. In 1974, Gujarat was in the throes of the Navnirman movement, which led to the dissolution of the state government headed by Chimanbhai Patel.
Against the backdrop of demands to postpone the presidential polls, a reference was made to the Supreme Court to get its opinion and nip any controversy in the bud. The apex court had opined that the presidential polls had to be held and completed in such time as may enable the president-elect to enter the office on the expiry of the term of office of the outgoing president and therefore, the election should be held even if the Gujarat Legislative Assembly was not in existence then.
The Supreme Court had noted that Article 54 of the Constitution mentioned the houses of Parliament and legislative assemblies only for the purpose of showing the qualifications of the members of the electoral college. “The elected members of a dissolved legislative assembly of a state are no longer members of the electoral college consisting of the elected members of both houses of Parliament and elected members of the legislative assemblies of the states and are, therefore, not entitled to cast votes at the presidential elections,” the top court had opined.
In 1992, the legislative assemblies of Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland were dissolved and thus, could not be part of the 10th presidential polls that elected Shankar Dayal Sharma to the top constitutional post. In 1992, Jammu and Kashmir had gone unrepresented in the presidential polls as the election to the Lok Sabha too could not take place in the erstwhile state in 1991 due to insurgency.
However, in the July 18 presidential polls, five Lok Sabha members from the Union Territory — Farooq Abdullah, Hasnain Masoodi, Akbar Lone, Jugal Kishor Sharma and Jitendra Singh — are eligible to cast their votes. In 1982, when Giani Zail Singh was elected as the president, the legislators from Assam could not vote as the Assembly was dissolved.