The Supreme Court Monday adjourned the hearing on petitions challenging the validity of Article 35A that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution to define “permanent residents” of the state. Soon after the court convened, the two-judge bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra adjourned the matter saying, “The petition has to be decided by a three-judge bench but Justice D Y Chandrachud who was to be part of it is absent today.” The court listed the matter for further hearing in the week commencing August 27.
“Once you have challenged the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, it has to go before a Constitution bench. A three-judge bench will determine it. A three-judge bench has been dealing with it and all the three will consider whether it has to go before a Constitution bench,” the CJI said.
The adjournment came after both the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration said that preparations for local body polls were underway. The Centre also said the interlocutor has been appointed and the talks are going on.
Article 35-A was added through “Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954”, issued by the President under Article 370. It replicates a state subject law promulgated by Dogra king Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927, following a strong campaign by Kashmiri Pandits who were opposed to the hiring of civil servants from Punjab.
The Jammu and Kashmir government had on August 3 moved the apex court seeking adjournment of Monday’s hearing on petitions challenging the validity of Article 35-A, citing the upcoming local body elections.
On Sunday, Kashmir observed an unprecedented shutdown against any tampering with the legislation that guarantees special constitutional rights to the people of the state. The shutdown call was given by separatists to protest against petitions seeking scrapping of Article 35-A.
What is Article 35-A and when was it introduced?
Article 35-A is a constitutional provision that allows the Jammu-Kashmir assembly to define permanent residents of the state. According to the Jammu-Kashmir constitution, a Permanent Resident is defined as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been residing in the state for a period of 10 years, and has “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state”. It was brought in by a presidential order in 1954 in order to safeguard the rights and guarantee the unique identity of the people of Jammu-Kashmir. Only the Jammu-Kashmir assembly can change the definition of PR through a law ratified by a two-thirds majority.