The Supreme Court on Monday will take up a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the politically contentious Article 35A. The Article relates to special rights and privileges of the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35A was added to the Indian Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, reported PTI. It also empowers the state’s legislature to frame laws without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other states or any other right under the Constitution. As per the report by the Indian Express, four petitions have been listed before a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandracud which demands the scrapping of the provision.
What is Article 35A; all the developments so far-
• Article 35A is a provision in the Constitution that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature to define permanent residents of the state, reported the Indian Express.
• The J&K Constitution – adopted on November 17, 1956 – defined a Permanent Resident (PR) as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident of the state for 10 years, and has “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state”.
• The definition of PR can be altered by the J&K Legislature, but only through a law passed by a two-thirds majority.
• The PR law replicated a state subject law promulgated by Dogra king Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927 following a strong campaign by Kashmiri Pandits, who were opposed to the hiring of civil servants from Punjab because it affected their representation in the administration.
• In 2014, the ‘We the Citizens’ NGO filed a writ petition seeking striking down of Article 35A.
• The state government filed a counter-affidavit and sought dismissal of the petition. However, despite pleas from the state government, the Central government did not do so.
• On July 17, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the bench of then Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud that the petition raised constitutional issues, after which the court referred the matter to a three-judge bench and set six weeks for final disposal.
• The Centre had refused to take a stand on the issue, with the AG telling the court that the question was “very sensitive” and required a “larger debate”, reported Indian Express.
• As per the report, the RSS and BJP are opposed to Article 35A because it bars non-state subjects from settling and buy property in J&K.
• J&K Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan has been camping in New Delhi along with state Advocate General Jahangir Ganai, given the sensitivity of the case.
• Meanwhile, three separatist leaders on Sunday urged the people of Kashmir to launch a “mass agitation” if the Supreme Court delivered a verdict in favour of pleas seeking the repeal of Article 35A, reported PTI.
• In a joint statement here, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik urged the people to “launch a mass agitation if the Supreme Court delivered a verdict against the interests and aspirations of the people of the state”.