Give Benefits To PoK Refugees: HC
10 March 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The State High Court has directed the authorities to grant similar benefits to the refugees from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), as are being provided to other displaced persons in the country. The direction was passed on a petition filed by displaced persons of 1947, who were forced to migrate to this part of the State from Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and part of Poonch, presently in PoK. In the petition, the petitioners sought the similar treatment as provided to the displaced persons from West Pakistan and East Bengal, presently Bangladesh. The High Court, after hearing the counsels, admitted the petition and in the meantime, said that the directions already given in Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Sharnarthi Action Committee on August 2, 2002 by the Division bench, shall be implemented in respect of the members of SOS, an organization of PoK refugees. On August 2 last year, in a PIL, the Division Bench comprising Justice TS Doabia (now retired) and Justice SK Gupta had observed that Union of India has taken steps with a view to provide compensation to those persons who had left their properties in West Pakistan. 'The aforesaid Act doesn't indicate that it doesn't apply to the State of J&K, but the definition of terms 'displace persons' would make it apparent that this Act applies only to those persons who left their properties in West Pakistan'. 'As PoK is not being treated as part of the West Pakistan, therefore, this Act would not be applicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir so far as the displaced person from PoK are concerned.' The stand of the Union of India was that PoK is part and parcel of State of J&K and integral part of India, would not be a reason to differentiate those persons who have come from PoK. The DB had further observed that this benefit is deprived to the displaced persons represented by petitioners' Association, on the basis of the political decision that PoK is a part of India and persons who have come from there, would someday in future go back and be in a position to claim back their properties. ' This is a decision on which this court is not supposed to give judgment but the hard reality of life is that there is a remote possibility of coming of those who have migrated from this part of the State and re-claim their properties.', the DB had observed. It was further observed that this is not happening even in the State itself. ' The migrants who have come from Valley are not willing to go back. They have become displaced persons within their own State. Therefore, holding out a hope to those displaced persons that someday in future they would go back and claim their properties in a hope on which they should not be left to sustain themselves. Something concrete is to be done for the welfare and upliftment of those who as per respondents have been displaced from an area which is still being treated as part of this State and an integral part of the country.', the Court had held adding that this is a matter on which a decision has to be taken by the respondents but at the same time 'it is observed that if Act could be framed for other displaced persons then why a class and category is created which is deprived of a right to a displaced person from PoK.' In this situation, the court said, it could only suggest that Union of India should frame a policy and take steps to mitigate the woes of those who are still being treated as displaced persons in their own country. The DB had further directed respondent-authorities to give a concrete shape and take steps with a view to grant similar benefits as have been granted to other displaced persons in India. This judgment of Division Bench was quoted in the present writ petition by the Single Bench, wherein the Judge directed that report regarding the direction would be made available to the court and petitioners are left free to take Dasti process. In the petition, the counsels- Sunil Sethi, KS Johal, SK Anand and Nitin Bhasin representing the petitions, prayed for issuance of a direction to the respondents that till the finalisation of their claims and their settlement of the families of PoK refugees be paid rupees 5,000 per month as financial assistance to each family and also seek direction to the Chairman and Managing Director J&K Bank Limited to make the payment of the amount deposited by those PoK refugees alongwith interest at the bank rates with quarterly rates and also grant benefit of 10 percent reservation in professional colleges, training institutions and services for the wards of PoK refugees all over India as well in J&K as being granted to the migrants from the Valley.