Review Of Article 35A, Key To J&K's Special Status, Deferred: 10 Points

Four petitions against Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is being heard by the Supreme Court that say that this constitutional provision violates the fundamental rights including the right to equality.


Article 35A of the Indian Constitution will be heard in the Supreme Court today.

Srinagar: A case over whether Jammu and Kashmir can keep its right to decide who qualifies as a permanent resident of the state will be taken up for hearing by the Supreme Court after three months, in January-end next year. The government had cited the recent appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as its interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, saying the top court's hearings in the politically volatile and emotive one could have some impact on the government's initiative. The case is being heard by three judges including Chief Justice Dipak Mishra.
Here is your 10-point cheat-sheet to this big story:
  1. The top court initially agreed to defer the case by two months but later accepted Attorney General KK Venugopal's request to put off the hearing at least to January. The issue involves the special status that is provided to Jammu and Kashmir, which allows it autonomy and a degree of self-rule not given to others.
  2. The fight to preserve Article 35A has united political parties in Kashmir, most residents of the state, and separatists who claim that it is the bedrock of the special status promised to Kashmir in the constitution. Article 35A of the constitution defines permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and excludes outsiders from owning property and getting benefits including government jobs.
  3. In 1927, Hari Singh, then the ruler of the state, said that residents would be preferred over outsiders for employment in the government. Article 35A, an extension of this, is part of Article 370, which guarantees Kashmir its own constitution, flag and the right to handle its own laws except on matters that impact national security including defence and foreign affairs.
  4. Article 35A allows the government to issue certificates to long-time residents of the state. Those who were living in Jammu and Kashmir in 1954, when the law was introduced, and those who have spent at least 10 years there after, qualify as permanent residents.
  5. Critics say that Article 35A empowers the state legislature to change the qualifications or entitlements of permanent residents by a two-thirds majority and residents of the state get various special rights and privileges that are denied to others (who are not permanent residents) about employment, the purchase of property, the right to scholarships and more.
  6. The constitution, through Article 35A, allows Jammu and Kashmir to frame laws that cannot be challenged for violating either its own provisions or other laws.
  7. Based on all this, four petitions against it being heard by the top court say that Article 35A violates fundamental rights including the right to equality.
  8. A Kashmiri woman who marries a non-resident cannot own property in the state. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court in 2002 declared this illegal but the children of these women cannot inherit their property, an aspect that has since been challenged in the Supreme Court.
  9. The BJP has traditionally argued against special status for Kashmir and amid the current legal challenge, it has not spoken in favour of Article 35A. This has served as one of multiple hot spots in its alliance with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her party, the PDP. In September, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the centre would not do anything "against the sentiments" of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
  10. Supporters of special status for Kashmir say it is a defining characteristic of the state that was promised to its people and that removing Article 35A would threaten its demographics while allowing separatists to fuel public anger against India.

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Through Article 35A, Jammu and Kashmir protects its permanent residents
Outsiders not allowed to own property, get scholarships or government job
Essential to preserve character, demographics of J&K, argue supporters

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