New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to take up on Tuesday a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This is the first time that hearing will be held on the provision when the state in under the Governor’s rule. Also Read - With Article 370 Gone, Army Now Wants to Buy Land in J&K to Set up Camp
The crucial hearing, which has reportedly been listed from February 26 to February 28, assumes significance in view of the toughening stand of the state-based political parties on the sensitive issue. Also Read - India to be Renamed 'Bharat'? Twitter Uses Harpic as Eyedrop to Undo Watching News, Asks Supreme Court to Sort Priorities Amid COVID-19 And Migrant Crisis
The Supreme Court website, in its weekly list, has listed as many as six petitions including the lead plea of NGO ‘We The Citizens’ for hearing during the week. Also Read - 'Close Your Legs': Judge's Advice to Woman, For Prevention of Sexual Assault, Costs Him His Job
A day before the top court’s hearing on the sensitive issue, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti went on to say that people may even raise some other flag and not the national tricolour.
National Conference chief Omar Abdullah said it was his duty to warn New Delhi about the consequences of any tampering with the special status of J and K.
The demand to revoke Article 35-A has gained more fervour since the terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama on February 14, which claimed lives of 40 jawans.
Following the attack, claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, there have been reports of Kashmiris facing violence in several parts of the country.
Recently, there have been speculation that the Centre is considering changing its stand of aloofness on the contentious issue. The entire Valley has been in a grip of panic since the last two days amidst speculation that the government may change its stand to seek an expeditious hearing.
On Sunday, the state administration’s counsel had sought permission from the Supreme Court for circulating a letter among contesting parties for adjourning the upcoming hearing on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A.
The apex court had deferred till January this year the hearing on the pleas after the Centre and the state said local bodies polls there would go on till December.
The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration had said the issue of Article 35A was “very sensitive” and keeping in mind the law and order aspect, the hearing be held in January or March 2019.
“Let these matters be listed in the second week of January 2019. All interlocutory applications shall be taken up along with the main matter,” the bench had said then.
Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
It denies property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state. The provision, which leads to such women from the state forfeiting their right over property, also applies to their heirs.
The bench is hearing several petitions including the one filed by NGO ‘We the Citizens’ through lawyer Barun Kumar Sinha.
On August 6 last year, the apex court had said a three-judge bench would decide whether the pleas challenging Article 35A should be referred to a five-judge constitution bench for examining the larger issue of alleged violation of the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution.
Several applications, including by political parties such as the National Conference and the CPI-M, were also filed in the Supreme Court in support of Article 35A, which also empowers the state assembly to define “permanent residents” to bestow special rights and privileges to them.
Besides the NGO, the other petitioners on the matter are ? West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee Cell 1947, Dr Charu Wali Khanna, Kali Dass, Radhika Gill and Major Ramesh Upadhyay.
The state government, while defending the article, had cited two verdicts of the constitution benches of the Supreme Court in 1961 and 1969, which had upheld the powers of the President under Article 370(1)(d) of the Constitution to pass constitutional orders.