JAMMU: After remaining in oblivion for quite a while now, the Article 35A that gives special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, was challenged once again in the Supreme Court, this time by representatives of ‘safai karmcharis’ (sweepers)-often referred to as Valmikis because of their 61-year long residences in Valmiki Colony, Gandhi Nagar, following which the apex court has sought the Central and state governments’ response on the plea.
Three persons filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) today in the top court on behalf of more than 4,000 persons belonging to the subsequent generations- going up to fourth generation, of 272 ‘safai karmcharis’ who had settled in Jammu from Gurdaspur and Amritsar in Punjab in 1957, seeking declaration that the Article 35A was unconstitutional as it deprived them of their right to property and employment under the state government, these being non-state subjects.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud admitted the plea and tagged the plea with similar petitions pending hearing, however, later decided to hear the plea on May 14.
The petitioners Radhika Gill, Eklavya and Vijay Kumar — residents of Valmiki Colony, while challenging the validity of the Article, contended that the President could not have amended Article 35 by incorporating Article 35A through a presidential notification.
The petitioners, the PIL says, were born in J&K and have been permanently residing and living in the State.
This, we have been denied a number of rights. The denial of right to seek admission in state-funded higher technical educational institutions, denial of right to get state scholarship and… denial of opportunity of employment in the state services and public sector undertakings and local bodies under the state government, denial of right to acquire and hold property for the purpose of shelter and settlement and denial of remedy of judicial review under impugned Article 35A, to the descendents of a 272 persons… has rendered the life of each one a without any meaning of being a human…,” they said.
It may be mentioned here that as many as 272 sweepers descendants of some among the petitioners- from Punjab’s Amritsar and Gurdaspur had moved to Jammu in 1957 at the instance of the J&K government, in the wake of an indefinite strike by the then employees of the Jammu Municipal Corporation.
The PIL contended that the denial of right to settle in the state and avail facilities available to original inhabitants was violative of the Constitution’s Article 14, 15, 16, 21 and 32 as well certain clauses of Articles 19 and 29.
“These denials rendered their lives meaningless and went against basic constitutional guarantees,” they added.
After hearing the petition, the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra-led bench observed that the matter involved interpretation of Constitutional provisions and should be clubbed with other petitions on the issue.
However, upon senior counsel Ranjit Kumar’s assertion that the petitioners sought some interim relief, the court agreed and posted the matter to be heard on May 14.
The court then sought the Central and state governments’ response on the plea. Earlier, the top court on October 30 last year had deferred for six months hearing on petitions challenging the validity of Article 35A in view of negotiations initiated by the Centre through interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma with various stakeholders in the state.