Petition Challenging Art 35(A): J-K Can File Response Till Nov 3

17 August 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Ishfaq Tantry

Srinagar: The J&K Government today sought time to file its response to a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35(A). The petition was listed before the Supreme Court registry, which has now granted the J&K Government till November 3 to file its response. The petition was filed by We the Citizens, a Delhi-based NGO registered as a society, through its president, Sandeep Kulkarni, in 2014. Subsequently, notices were issued to the respondents, including the J&K Government and the Union Government, to file their response before the petition was admitted. 'We today sought time to file the response to the petition,' said a standing counsel of the J&K Government, who represented the state in the petition before the registry. The petition is now listed on November 3, he added. He said the petition was still at the notice stage and had not yet been admitted by the Supreme Court for hearing. The petition had come up before a bench of Justice HL Dattu and SA Bobde in August 2014, but since then, both J&K and the Union Governments have delayed filing response to the PIL, thus avoiding to take a public stand on the petition, which challenges the validity of Article 35(A). Meanwhile, top officials of the state Law Department are meeting here this week to chalk out the response to the petition and also the reply to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which has sought the views of the J&K Government on Article 35(A). 'The response to the petition and the views as sought by the MHA will be drafted only after a meeting. Hopefully, the response will be ready within a week,' said a top J&K official. Article 35(A) is considered an outgrowth powered by Article 370 of the Constitution. It bars non-residents of J&K from buying land or property in the state. However, both Article 370 and 35(A) of the Constitution are resented by the RSS and its affiliates. In fact, a RSS-backed thinktank, Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre, had earlier this year said it planned to challenge the constitutional validity of Article 35(A) before the Supreme Court. Stating that the J&K Constitution is sovereign in character and the state Assembly exercises sovereign power to legislate laws, the J&K High Court in a landmark judgment on July 17 said Article 35(A) of the Constitution clarifies the already existing constitutional and legal position and does not extend something new to the state. 'Article 35(A) is clarificatory provision to clear the issue of constitutional position obtaining in the rest of the country in contrast to the state of J&K. This provision clears the constitutional relationship between the people of rest of country and the people of J&K,' the High Court ruled, upholding the special status of J&K under Article 370. The ruling parties in J&K, the BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have contradictory views regarding the special status of J&K, with the former seeking to abolish Article 370 and the latter for retaining Article 370 and 35(A).