HC asks govt to look into necessity of J&K’s Darbar move
The Jammu and Kashmir high court asked government authorities on Tuesday to look into the necessity of continuing with the 148-year-old practice of shifting the seat of power, called Darbar move, every six months between Jammu and Srinagar.
The court also asked “competent authorities” to keep in mind the financial implication for the “hopelessly fiscally deprived Union Territory”, questioning the annual expenditure of what many reports peg at Rs 200 crore needed for the exercise.
Hearing a self-adopted public interest litigation, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Geeta Mittal observed that “no reasons or grounds are forthcoming for enabling and supporting considerations of administrative efficiency, legal justification or Constitutional basis for affecting the Darbar move”.
“The material placed before us manifests that there has been no application of mind to the changed circumstances because of technological and scientific advances. Our judicial conscience compels us to ring the bell else we would fail in discharging our judicial duty or to perform our constitutional function as demanded in the interest of the Nation and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially its common woman and man, the poor and the weak,” the bench, also comprising Justice Rajnesh Oswal, said.
The court expressed its inability to pass an order, saying it had listed its “limitations on the extent of our jurisdiction whereby we stand precluded from making a declaration on the permissibility or the continuation of the practice...”
In its 93-page judgment, the court also listed suggestion made by senior advocate Monika Kohli, who drew the court’s attention to a report that the Centre released around Rs 24 crore for purchase of hardware and software for the civil secretariat and also released funds for digitisation of official records. She submitted before the court that government records should be properly secured and preserved at a proper place.
Dogra ruler Maharja Ranbir Singh made the arrangement of shifting the Darbar from Srinagar to Jammu in 1870s to escape severe winter in the Valley and the Jammu heat in the summer. In keeping with the tradition, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir is shifted every six months from Jammu (winter capital) to Srinagar (summer capital).
“The discomfort on account of change of weather in either city is today compensated by efficient and modern environment control mechanism as air conditioning, heaters etc in both Jammu as well as Srinagar,” Kohli said.
Speaking to HT, Kohli said: “It all started amid the Covid-19 lockdown after a man from Kashmir, whose son was stranded in Iran, moved an application before the court for his evacuation, and it was treated as suo motu PIL.”
“While all this was on, the administration announced Darbar Move in April. Some of the lawyers from Kashmir expressed their concern that how Darbar move can happen amid lockdown and Covid infection,” she added.