Srinagar: Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing on petitions challenging the validity of Article 35A that defines the special rights of the “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir. The next hearing will be held on August 27.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra was supposed to hear the case; however, Justice DY Chandrachud remained absent. “Article 35-A did not come in the Constitution a day ago and a two-judge bench cannot hear it,” said CJI Mishra, alongside Justice A M Khanwilkar.
It was also considered whether the matters should be referred to the constitutional (five-judge) bench.
“We would hear the matter on August 27, and on that day, a three-judge bench would determine whether the matter is required to be referred to a five-judge bench,” Misra added.
Article 35-A is the J&K State Subject Law, which defines permanent residents of the state and prevents “non-State Subjects” from buying or owning any property in the state, settle permanently, or avail any benefits from any state-sponsored scheme. It also restricts the state government from hiring any non-permanent residents in government services.
Misra also said that the Jammu and Kashmir government, which is currently administered by the Centre, “may not have much to say”. To which, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Rakesh Dwivedi, while appearing for the state government, opposed the observation saying that the state has “a lot to say in the matter.”
Demanding the hearing to be adjourned until December, the state counsel cited the upcoming Panchayat and urban local body elections in the state as the reason for deferment.
Misra also said that that the Article 35A has been in vogue for more than 60 years and an “argument about strike by lawyers can’t now be a ground to speed up the case.”
CJI also observed that the apex court has to consider whether Article 35A goes against the basic structure of the Constitution.
People’s Democratic Party President and former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, called the decision as “interim relief.” She said that even though the deferment of hearing on Article 35A is not a solution, it has brought interim relief to the people of state. “But with uncertainty looming over its status, it has unleashed a wave of anxiety and panic amongst the people of J&K,” she tweeted.
Four petitions have challenged the legality of the Article 35A on the grounds that it was never presented before Parliament and was implemented on the President’s orders in 1954.
The pleas argued that the state became an “integral part of India” once it acceded to the Union, so there was no question of special status or treatment.
Primarily, Delhi-based NGO, ‘We the Citizens’, argue that the Article 370 and 35A should be scrapped, as it decimates against the citizens of J-K and the non-J-K citizens.
The National Conference Working President, Omar Abdullah, tweeted, “Kashmir has shut down to protect a provision of the Indian constitution. When was the last time anyone was able to frame that headline? #Article35A.”
Local political parties and pro-freedom leaders have come out together in support of any tinkering against the Article 35-A.
Scores of protests have taken place across Kashmir valley and Jammu division too, along with a two-day complete shutdown. On Monday, the Valley is observing the strictest civil curfew in recent years.