Kashmir on Tenterhooks, Supreme Court to Hear Article 35-A Petitions Today
SRINAGAR: The apex court will today hear the pleas for abrogation of Article 35-A with the Hurriyat threatening to launch a mass agitation in the Valley if the verdict is “against the interests and aspirations of Kashmiris”.
The Article, which bars a non-state subject from purchasing land or property, getting a government job or voting in the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, has been challenged through four petitions, apparently at the behest of Hindu right-wing.
According to the official website of the Supreme Court, the case is listed before Court No. 1 (Chief Justice Court) today in the supplementary list even as the joint Hurriyat yesterday asked people in the Valley to launch mass agitation if the court upholds the petitions.
“Any move to tinker with state subject law will create Palestine like situation in Kashmir. We will safeguard the integrity and special status of the state at any cost,'' a joint statement by Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik said yesterday.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwikar will hear the petitions that have challenged the Article 35-A on grounds, among others, that it was extended to the state through a Presidential Order.
The case was referred by a two-judge bench of the apex court in July this year, kicking off a political storm with the ruling PDP facing accusations of “implementing the right-wing agenda in the Muslim majority state” by continuing its alliance with the BJP.
Soon after the four petitions challenging the law were clubbed and referred to the three-judge bench, the J&K government hired a battery of lawyers who sought dismissal of the petitions while the Centre is yet to file its response in the case, lending an air of mystery to the issue.
Article 35-A, which was drafted to protect to state subject laws that had already been defined under the Maharaja’s rule and notified in 1927 and 1932, was extended to J&K through the ‘Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order’ issued by President Rajendra Prasad on May 14, 1954.
Constitutional experts have warned that if Article 35-A is tampered with or declared illegal, J&K will gradually lose all the special privileges including the state subject law, right to property and right to employment in the state government, the largest employer in the underdeveloped state.
Besides vitiating the atmosphere, the issue has also dented the credibility of the ruling People’s Democratic Party which is being accused of trading its ideology of 'self-rule' in Kashmir in order to stay in power in the turmoil affected state.
“We are watching the developments and soon a line of action and program will be announced for people. The concern over Article 35A shown by pro- Indian parties was mere rhetoric and gimmick. The PDP had failed over Article 35A. The party has become an ally of the RSS and the PDP-BJP alliance is an unholy nexus,” the Hurriyat trio said in the statement.
(Cover Photograph by Basit Zargar)