Quick swearing-in of CM to avoid crisis in J&K: Expert

Srinagar;A constitutional crisis in Jammu and Kashmir will be averted if someone is quickly sworn in as the new chief minister after the death of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, a constitutional expert said on Friday.

“If Peoples Democratic Party president and Sayeed’s daughter Mehbooba Mufti insists on not taking oath till the end of mourning for her father on the fourth day (Sunday) as per Islamic traditions, Governor N.N. Vohra will have no option but to impose a short spell of governor’s rule,” senior lawyer Sheikh Shakeel said.

“The governor will have to use extraordinary powers vested in him by the constitution to keep the assembly in suspended animation till he works out the possibility of a democratically elected government in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Under the J&K constitution, the governor can assume the reins of the state for six months in case of a constitutional crisis whereas President’s rule is imposed in other states in the country.

“When head of the council of ministers (chief minister) in the state ceases to exist for whatever reason, the council also ceases to exist,” he said.

He said the party with the largest number of MLAs in the 87-member assembly must immediately approach the governor to claim support of the majority in the house.

“The governor will then invite the person for the swearing-in after satisfying himself about the claim’s genuineness.”

“The person sworn in as chief minister later submits a list of council of ministers to the governor who will then administer the oath of office individually to each such member,” Shakeel said.

Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed passed away at 9.10 a.m. on Thursday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.

Informed sources in the PDP and its coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party said Mehbooba Mufti’s swearing-in as chief minister could take place on Friday afternoon.
PDP insiders said Mehbooba Mufti would not like the state to lapse into any constitutional crisis because of her father’s death.

A senior minister in the Mufti’s cabinet and who is believed to be close to the Mufti family told IANS: “Mehboobaji is in a state of shock. Somebody from the family must persuade her to take over as the chief minister on Friday itself.”

When National Conference founder and the then chief minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah died in 1982, his son Farooq Abdullah was sworn in within hours of his father’s death by the then governor B.K. Nehru.

Similarly, in 1971, when G.M. Sadiq passed away, Syed Mir Qasim was sworn in immediately as chief minister to avert a constitutional crisis.