JAMMU: Supreme Court has agreed to hear a bunch of petitions challenging constitutional validity of Article 35-A amid rumours that Centre is considering a change in its stand to put an end to special privilege enjoyed by the Jammu and Kashmir state. The apex court will hear the petitions from February 26-28.
The petitioners have challenged the constitutional validity of Article 35-A saying that it was introduced in the Constitution by way of President Order. This has become a big political issue after the Pulwama incident, where 44 CRPF personnel died in a terror attack.
Here is everything you should know about the sensitive Article 35A.
What is Article 35A?
Article 35A was added to the Indian Constitution in 1954 as part of the deal between the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, and the Republic of India to protect the privileges of Kashmiri residents.
It has a provision that gives J&K Assembly the power to decide who all are the ‘permanent residents’ of the state that can have permanent settlement rights in the state, get scholarships, receive public aid and acquire immovable property.
It also empowers the state legislature to frame laws without any challenge on grounds of violating the constitution or any other law of the land.
When was it introduced?
Introduced in 1954 by a Presidential Order, the Article has provision under which the President of India can make certain “exceptions and modifications” for the benefit of ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir.
Why is it being challenged at court?
According to the petitioners, the provision was unconstitutionally added to the Constitution. The Constitution does not allow the President to add or change existing provisions. This can only be done by the legislature after such change stands approved within the Parliament by the elected leaders of the country. In the case of Artcile 35A, the provision was added without getting a nod from the Parliament.
Why is labelled as discriminatory against J&K women?
Petitioners claim that Article 35A is discriminatory against women. If a Woman native to Kashmir, marries a man not holding a permanent resident certificate, “her children are denied a permanent resident certificate”, which makes them ineligible to hold immovable property in the state.
At first, it disqualified women who married non-permanent residents, from their rights as state subjects. However, in 2002, the J&K high court ruled that woman who married non-residents will not lose their rights.
Those in favour of retaining Article 35A fear that its repeal would lead to further erosion of J&K’s autonomy and trigger demographic change in the Muslim majority valley. Some political parties say the Kashmir resolution lies in in greater autonomy, even as separatists fan paranoia about the possibility of Hindus ‘flooding’ the valley.
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti last year asserted Article 35A should not be tinkered with, saying there would be no one to hold the tricolour if provisions regarding special status to J&K residents were altered.
On Sunday, governor Satya Pal Malik issued a statement urging people not to spread rumours and remain calm after the state dministration issued many orders including supplying ration, at the earliest, cancelling leave of doctors and policemen, rationing of petrol to the general public, leading to a war hysteria. The widespread arrests of Jamaat-e-Islami cadres and separatists contributed to these rumours.