West Pakistan Refugees in J&K Move Supreme Court Challenging Article 35A
Article 35A, which was added to the Constitution by a Presidenial Order in 1954, accords special rights and privileges to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
Representative image (REUTERS)
New Delhi: Some refugees of West Pakistan, who had migrated to India during the 1947 partition, have moved the Supreme Court challenging Article 35A of the Constitution relating to special rights and privileges of permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
The petition said there were around 3 lakh refugees from West Pakistan but those settled in Jammu and Kashmir have been denied the rights guaranteed under Article 35A which are given to the original residents of the state.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud tagged the plea of the refugees, who are settled in the Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, with the similar matters pending before it.
The apex court had, on the request of Jammu and Kashmir government, posted the matters challenging Article 35A for hearing after Diwali holidays.
Article 35A, which was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, accords special rights and privileges to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
It also empowers the state's legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other states or any other right under the Indian Constitution.
Earlier, a Kashmiri Pandit woman, Dr Charu Wali Khanna, had approached the apex court challenging the provision.
Petitioners Kali Das, his son Sanjay Kumar and one other in their plea have said that they were raising issues seeking conferment of basic natural and human rights which at present were denied to them.
"The petitioners are persons who migrated from Pakistan to India in 1947. They were assured by the government that they should stay in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on the assurance that they would be granted Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC), which would permit them to purchase properties and own a house, opportunity to get a government job and reservation benefits, since most of them belong to SC/ST/OBC category and a right to vote in state and municipal elections," the plea said.
The petition claimed that since 1947, the refugees have been given repeated assurances by successive governments but never given PRC, thereby keeping them as refugees for over 65 years.
"Petitioners are filing the instant writ petition for conferring the status of permanent resident on around 3,00,000 West Pakistan refugees, who have been denied basic rights like the right to employment, education, ownership of property and political participation," the petition said.
It said denial of any of these necessary, natural and basic human rights result in "denial of basic civilizational recognition to a set of humanity which defies basic human values and civilsational ethos".
"Certain group of citizens of India for whose rights this petition is being moved are subjected to extreme cruelty and bonded labour treatment. The state government granted permanent resident status to some of the West Pakistan refugees subject to exception that they could be employed only as sweepers," the petition submitted.
The plea claimed that the refugees and their children are not allowed to hold any position higher than sweeper and the children are not entitled to gain education in government universities or avail any scholarship to gain education.
"Theoretically, employment of these people is permissible and their appearances in All India Services in UPSC is permissible, where they can become chief secretary of J&K, the DGP of J&K but cannot hold any position higher than a sweeper, like a clerk or a constable in the state," it submitted.
The plea said if a person is permitted to occupy the position of Chief Secretary or DGP of the state in law, no logical or legal impediments remains for him to occupy the post of a clerk or a constable.
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