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J-K asks Supreme Court to defer Article 35A hearings over upcoming local elections

The counsel for Jammu and Kashmir sought adjournment of the hearings citing upcoming civic and panchayat body polls in the restive state.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2018 23:48 IST
Ashok Bagaraiya and Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Supreme Court,Jammu and Kashmir,Article 35 A
Kashmiris carry out a demonstration over Article 35A and 370, in Srinagar on August 3, 2018. The Jammu and Kashmir government has sought an adjournment of the hearing on August 6 in the Supreme Court on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 35A of the Constitution.(AFP)

Days before the Supreme Court is to start hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 35 A of the Constitution, which gives the Jammu and Kashmir legislature the powers to decide who are permanent residents of the state, the administration has written to the apex court to defer the hearings, citing upcoming panchayat and urban local body elections.

In a letter written to the Registrar of the Supreme Court, on Friday, counsel for the Jammu and Kashmir government sought an adjournment of the hearings on “account of the ongoing preparations for the upcoming panchayat/urban local body and municipal elections.” The hearings are to start on Monday.

Hindustan Times is in possession of a copy of the letter written to the Supreme Court Registrar. Kashmiri separatist organisations have called for a two-day shutdown against the attempts to repeal Article 35 A.

Article 35A gives special rights to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. It disallows people from outside the state from buying or owning immovable property in the state settle permanently, or avail themselves of state-sponsored scholarships.

A bunch of petitions have been filed in the top court challenging article 35 A of the constitution contending that the article was illegally added because it was never proposed before Parliament.

Article 35 A was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order. It accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of J&K and also empowers the state legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on the grounds of it violating the Right to Equality of people from other states under the Indian Constitution.

A think tank associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that has been campaigning to repeal Article 35A of the Constitution has, meanwhile, stepped up efforts to garner support for its demand.

The Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC) has been opposing the article on grounds that it “violates the rights of citizens and has been incorporated without following the due process.” It has also been pushing for abrogation of Article 370 that confers special status on Jammu and Kashmir,

JKSC has been trying to shape public opinion through discussions and closed door meetings on how Article 35 A is discriminatory against women and the marginalised sections.

As per the provision of the law, if a woman from the state marries a non-state subject, her husband and children cannot inherit her assets and are denied a permanent resident certificate (PRC); this does not apply to men who marry non-state subjects.

“Women are the worst affected by this (35A) provision,” said Abha Khanna, director (media) of the JKSC. She said over 200 Valmiki (lower caste) families that were moved to the state in 1957 with the promise that they would be granted a permanent residence certificate (PRC) had not yet been rehabilitated.

“These people were offered permanent residency, with the condition that it would last only till the time they were alive; now their children and grandchildren are denied admissions and jobs. Similarly, the Gorkhas who came in 18th Century and have served the state and its people are also denied PRC,” she said.

According to an RSS functionary, the issue came up for discussion at the Akhil Bharatiya Prant Pracharak meeting held in Jammu in June, where the Sangh brass reiterated the need to repeal the Article.

“The decision to mobilise support for repealing the Article, which the Sangh feels is a fraud, was taken at the meeting,” the functionary said on condition of anonymity.

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 14:36 IST