- Supreme Court hearing cases against Article 35A amid protests in J&K
- Centre, state seek hearing after local polls citing law and order problem
- Court to hear case in second week of January
A hearing for a clutch of closely-watched cases challenging Article 35A of the constitution has been deferred by the Supreme Court after the state and the central governments requested it to be pushed back, saying it could trigger unrest and affect efforts to organise long-delayed local body elections by the end of this year.
The law empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to determine who are permanent residents of the state and give them various special rights and privileges while imposing restrictions on others in respect of jobs, acquiring land, settling in the state, right to scholarships and other forms of aid. The constitutional provision bars outsiders from owning property in Jammu and Kashmir.
Article 35A sees wide support among residents of the state but is opposed by others who say it violates rights of the rest of the citizens of India.
On Friday, the court deferred the hearing of the case to the second week of January after the Jammu and Kashmir government said it plans to hold Panchayat elections in the state between September and December and a debate on the Article 35A could trigger law and order problems. Already, there have been several protests in the state against the Supreme Court's move to hear the challenges to the law.
The centre too asked for the hearing to be deferred. "Large number of paramilitary forces are there. Let the elections go on calmly and thereafter hear these petitions in January or March. This issue has been very sensitive," the centre's lawyer Attorney General K K Venugopal said.
The petitioner, however, asserted their stand, saying the law has excluded many from getting into professional colleges despite living in the state for 60 years. The lawyer for Charu Wali Khanna, one of the petitioners, said that the law prevented her from buying property because she married a non-Kashmiri.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Jammu and Kashmir, agreed that this was a issue of gender bias and said, "There is an element of discrimination but the matter has to be heard fully."
After hearing out the arguments, Justice AM Khanwilkar observed: "When the state says there could be a law and order problem beyond their control how can we hear the case?"
Chief Justice Dipak Misra too questioned petitioners: "Article 35A came in 1954 and you challenge it after 60 years?"
When a lawyer for one of the petitioners said that even the Sabarimala Temple case had been filed after a long time, Justice Misra replied, "Sabarimala is not a constitutional issue but statutory issue."