The Supreme Court Friday deferred to January 2019 the hearing over a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A that empowers the J&K government to define the state’s permanent residents and their rights. The Centre and State urged the court to hear the matter only after the local body elections scheduled for December in the state.
On Thursday, the Kashmir Valley and parts of Jammu region observed a complete shutdown to protest against any “tampering” with the special constitutional rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The Joint Resistance Leadership, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, gave the call for the shutdown that will be observed today as well.
Earlier in the first week of August, the apex court had deferred the hearing in the matter to the last week of August after both the Centre and Centre-ruled J&K administration sought an adjournment of proceedings, citing ongoing preparations for local body polls.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar adjourned the hearing, saying a three-judge bench needs to decide whether it should be referred to a Constitution Bench. “Let the matter be listed before a three-judge bench in the week commencing August 27 to determine whether it should be heard by a Constitution Bench or not,” the judges said.
The provisions of Article 35-A bars Indian citizens, other than those who are permanent residents of J&K, from seeking employment, settling in the state, acquiring immovable properties or undertaking any trade or business if the state makes any law to that effect and it cannot be challenged before any court.
Following the adjournment of the hearing the matter, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said, “Even though the deferment of hearing on Article 35 A is not a solution, it has brought interim relief to the people of JK. But with uncertainty looming over its status, it has unleashed a wave of anxiety and panic amongst the people of J & K.”