SC refers PIL challenging Article 35A to a three-judge bench

RSTV Bureau

On Monday, the Supreme Court of India listed the plea challenging the validity of Article 35A of Constitution and a pending petition before a three-judge bench.

Article 35A of Constitution of India empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them. It came into being through a presidential order in 1954.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti

Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar tagged the issue along with a similar pending matter for hearing by a three-judge bench later this month.

“If this matter requires being heard by a five-judge constitution bench, then the three-judge bench, which will hear the matter may refer it,” the bench said.

File Photo of Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi.

File Photo of Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi.

The Jammu and Kashmir government, under the guise of Articles 35A and 370, which grants special autonomous status to the state, has been discriminating against nonresidents, who are debarred from buying properties, getting government jobs or voting in local elections, the PIL said.

Referring the matter to the Constitutional bench, the court said that the question of Article 35A being ultra vires will be dealt with by a constitution bench.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh

The controversy erupted in 2014 after an NGO ‘We the Citizens’ filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking that Article 35A be struck down.

While the state government contested the petition, saying the president had the power to incorporate a new provision in the Constitution by way of an order, the Centre, recently, expressed its reservations.

Meanwhile, the J&K government told the Court that the issue Article 35A was “prima facie settled” by the High Court in its 2002 judgment.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had recently met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh amid reports that she had come to the national capital to drum up support for preventing attempts to remove special status to the state under the Constitution.