Srinagar: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led Jammu and Kashmir government stoked a fresh controversy by issuing a circular directing all the constitutional authorities to maintain the sanctity of the state flag at all costs, as is being done in respect to the Union Flag. However, following criticism from political parties, the J&K government today withdrew the controversial circular, saying it was not approved by a "competent authority".
The circular issued on March 12, 2015 by the General Administration Department (GAD), headed by Mufti himself, stated, "as per the Constitution of J&K and the Delhi Agreement of 1952 and keeping in view the historical background, the State Flag has the same sanctity and position as the Union Flag has under the Indian Constitution and other statutory provisions. Therefore, the sanctity and position has to be maintained at all costs".
The order signed by Commissioner Secretary, GAD, M A Bukhari said that the violation of the government directive will be treated as insult to Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Insult to State Honors Act, 1979.
The government nullified the circular and issued a statement in the regard. A spokesperson for the government said that the draft of the circular was not approved by the Competent Authority before being issued and as such stands withdrawn with immediate effect.
Appropriate administrative action will be taken after enquiry into the circumstances leading to the issuing of this circular, he added.
Following the order, the state flag was seen unfurled on the top floor of the civil secretariat complex in both the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar. The official cars of the ministers also have both the flags.
Jammu and Kashmir has a separate constitution and separate flag unlike other states under special status.
Explaining further, an official spokesman said since December 12, 2013, the state government has been pursuing a case in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court wherein the petitioner has prayed for a direction that the Republic Day of the state should be celebrated when the state constitution was adopted and became enforceable.
"It was also prayed that all constitutional authorities be commanded to use the flag of the state in all their official cars, offices and buildings with dignity and honor demonstrating the sanctity of the flag," he said.
The state government had not responded to the case and had not filed a reply as desired by the court, the spokesman said, adding, "The court gave a last chance to the state government to file a reply on or before it comes up for hearing which was expected to be anytime now."
He said in order to avoid any adverse order in a sensitive constitutional matter, the state government intended to file an affidavit in the court today contesting all the pleas made by the petitioner.
In the affidavit, it stated that it will issue a circular reiterating the respect that is to be accorded to the Union as also the state flag taking recourse to J&K Prevention of Insult to the State Honour Act, 1979, in the latter case.