The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it may refer to a constitution bench a plea challenging the validity of the Jammu and Kashmir Resettlement Act if it finds that some issues need interpretation of the Constitution.
The Act envisages grant of permit for resettlement of Pakistani nationals who had migrated from Jammu and Kashmir between 1947 and 1954 after India’s partition.
A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it will hear the matter and if during the course of proceedings it finds that no constitutional issue is involved then it will pass an order.
The bench, which also comprised justices Prafulla C Pant and AM Khanwilkar, made the observation after it was informed that the earlier bench hearing the matter had referred it to a five-judge constitution bench.
Jammu and Kashmir National Panther Party (JKNPP) president and senior advocate Bhim Singh said the matter should be heard finally by the court.
He informed the court that a division bench in 2008 had issued direction to list the case before a constitution bench but the chief justice in the same year had overruled the decision and ordered the matter to be listed before a three-judge bench.
Singh said people of Jammu and Kashmir who migrated to Pakistan from 1947 could be considered for their return but their descendants could not.
He said the law passed by the assembly was draconian, unconstitutional and improper, and threatened the security of the state.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing after six weeks.
The JKNPP, through then MLA Harsh Dev Singh, had challenged the Act passed by the Jammu and Kashmir assembly in 1981.
In 1982, the Act was first challenged by Singh before the apex court and then governor BK Nehru refused to sign the Bill and sent it back to the assembly.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then PM of the newly constituted BJP, had also filed a petition before the apex court seeking intervention.
The matter was considered by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court in 2001 on a presidential reference. The apex court returned the reference back to the President with a three-word pronouncement: ‘Returned, respectfully, unanswered’.
MLA Harsh Dev Singh in 2001 then filed a writ petition in the apex court seeking quashing of the Resettlement Act.
The Supreme Court while admitting the plea had ordered for stay of operation of the Act and in 2008 the matter was referred to the constitution bench on the plea that the subject relates to the interpretation of the Constitution of India.