The Supreme Court has agreed to look into the validity of Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special status to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
The apex court said a three-judge bench will hear the objections to the provisions of Article 35A in the next six weeks, and may decide on referring the matter to a five-judge bench.
The petition challenging the Article claims it has a gender bias and does not grant the same status to women in Jammu and Kashmir.
In defence, the Jammu and Kashmir government has told the Supreme Court that the Article 35A issue has been “prima facie settled” by the High Court in its 2002 judgment.
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Article 35A came into being through a presidential order in 1954 and gives powers to the state legislature to define permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and their privileges.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah accused the BJP, which in alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP currently runs the state government, of trying to scrap Articles 35A and 370.
“If the BJP succeeds in scrapping Article 35A through court, our state subject laws will end. People from outside will come and buy plots here, get government jobs, scholarships for their children and aids and relief,” Abdullah said today.
Abdullah claimed the Hindu-majority Jammu would be more affected than the Muslim-majority areas of Kashmir if Article 35A is scrapped.
“Someone who wants to buy land in this state, will he do that in Kashmir? Even people residing in Kashmir don’t feel safe there. Take it in writing that before going to Kashmir to buy land and look for jobs, they will come to Jammu,” he said.
“The BJP said it would scrap Article 370, but realised it is not possible through Parliament. They went to court, asking others to fight the case,” he said.
Mehbooba Mufti had rushed to New Delhi on Thursday after a series of meeting with opposition leaders in the state – including Abdullah’s father and former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and chief of state Congress GA Mir – to discuss ways and means to protect Article 35A that has been challenged by an NGO through a petition in the Supreme Court.
After her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mufti had on Friday said that he has given an assurance that there will be no compromise on the agenda of the PDP-BJP alliance on Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution that give a special status to the state.
However, the opposition National Conference expressed doubts over Mufti’s announcement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured her on protecting the Constitution’s Article 35A.
On Saturday, life in the Kashmir Valley and parts of Jammu was affected due to a shutdown called to protect Article 35A. Shops, businesses, educational institutions and public transport remained shut in response to the shutdown called by separatists.