New Delhi, Aug 6: The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear today the plea challenging the validity of Article 35-A of the Constitution which accords special rights and privileges to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state. Also Read - 'What Is This Behaviour': Supreme Court Angry After Lawyer Appears Shirtless During Online Hearing
Article 35-A also denies property rights to a native woman who marries a person from outside the state. Also Read - SC Rejects Chanda Kochhar’s Appeal Against HC Order Dismissing Her Plea Over Termination
“Let the matter be listed at 2.00 p.m. on 6.8.2018. Pleadings from all angles shall be completed in the meantime,” the apex court bench had ordered on May 5, as per the Apex Court Registry’s report revealed on Saturday. Also Read - Operation All-Out in Kashmir: Forces And Civil Society Need to Kill Terrorism's Psyche
However, the state government has filed an application to the Supreme Court’s registrar, informing him that it is going to seek adjournment of the hearing of the petition in view of the “ongoing preparations for the upcoming Panchayat and urban local body elections in the state”.
On the other hand, the RSS-linked NGO ‘We The Citizens’, who filed the main petition demanding scrapping of Article 35-A, said on Sunday that it would seek hearing of its plea by a Constitution bench.
“There is no need to defer the hearing again? We are going to tell the Supreme Court through our counsel tomorrow that our petition on Article 35A should be decided by a Constitution bench,” Chetan Sharma, convener of the J&K chapter of the civil society ‘We the Citizens’, said.
“We are ready for an argument. Those who want an argument over it should come forward. How long will it be deferred? Delaying the judgement is not the solution,” he added.
Sharma also dismissed as “propaganda” that revocation of the Article would cause a massive jolt to the state and said Kashmir-centric parties and “some so-called intellectuals in Jammu” are misleading the people on the issue even as it is sub-judice.
“Those issuing threats of mass agitation in Kashmir and elsewhere must remain within limits as their poisonous propaganda with malafide intentions to subjugate masses would boomerang,” he said, adding that pressurizing the Supreme Court by issuing threats is unlawful and demands legal action.
“We appeal to the central government and the state administration for dealing these anti-nationals with iron hand. The Supreme Court decides on the facts and cannot be pressurized by the masses. We have deep faith in the Indian judiciary and the Indian flag will keep fluttering with all its might,” he said.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) called for a two-day shutdown on Sunday and Monday across the state against the legal challenge on the validity of Article 35A in the Supreme Court.
On Sunday, life came to a standstill across the state with shops and business establishments closed across the Valley while all kinds of transport remained off the roads.
The state authorities also announced temporary suspension of the ongoing Amarnath Yatra in view of the shutdown. The pilgrimage will remain suspended till Monday.
According to reports, intelligence agencies have warned of a possible “revolt” in the police ranks and massive unrest in the state if the Supreme Court passes an “adverse” order on Article 35A.
Governor NN Vohra, who currently rules the state following the split of the BJP-PDP coalition government, is also of the view that the hearing on the “sensitive” issue should be deferred till a popular government is formed in the state.
Why is Article 35-A debated?
The debate with respect to the constitutional validity of Article 35-A started after the NGO ‘We The Citizens’ filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2014, saying the provision was only supposed to be a temporary one.
It argues that four representatives from Kashmir were part of the Constituent Assembly involved in the drafting of the Constitution and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was never accorded any special status in the Constitution. Article 370 was only a ‘temporary provision’ to help bring normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and strengthen democracy in that State. The Constitution makers did not intend Article 370 to be a tool to bring permanent amendments, like Article 35A, in the Constitution.
The special status was bestowed on Jammu and Kashmir by incorporating Article 35-A in the Constitution. Article 35-A was incorporated by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad in 1954 on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet. The Parliament was not consulted when the President incorporated Article 35-A into the Constitution through a Presidential Order issued under Article 370.
The top court will now have to decide whether the President then acted outside his jurisdictions or powers, and also whether Article 35-A is constitutionally invalid as the Nehru government had not placed it before the Parliament for discussion.
Article 35A is also being challenged for its Gender Discrimination and violation of Article 14 thus infringing the Fundamental rights of citizens.
The mainstream regional political parties, including Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference, and separatist leadership have clearly warned that any change in status quo over Article 35-A would invite serious repercussions.
On the other hand, the NDA government at the Centre has been historically against special provisions to Jammu and Kashmir.