Now virtually at the end of his tenure the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir NN Vohra has put the Union Government in Delhi in a quandary. He has moved the Supreme Court for the deferment of any decision regarding Article 35A that deals with domicile, citizenship, property rights and issues of inheritance of the State subjects in Jammu and Kashmir since the State Assembly is under suspended animation.
The Governor’s stand in the top court of the country is thought to be in variance with the Centre’s approach to a host of petitions on the issue of Article 35A that is pending before the apex court.
The Governor is going to be represented in the Supreme Court by the famed lawyer Fali S Nariman when Vohra’s plea comes up before the court on Monday, August 6.
In the meantime, passions are reported to be rising in the Kashmir Valley since the article is thought to be linked to the State’s autonomy. Shutdown calls have been given by diverse political forces and the security has been stepped up in view of this.
Once seen in the light of the sensitive nature that the issue of Article 35A has assumed the Governor’s step appears to be the right move. His plea is that the cases related to Article 35A should be taken up when the elected Government is in place and the Governor’s rule in the State comes to an end.
Jammu and Kashmir were put under Central rule via Governor in June this year when the BJP called off its alliance with the PDP, or Peoples Democratic Party, and Chief Minister Mahbooba Mufti had to resign.
Ever since this, her party has been showings signs of cracks. And efforts have been afoot by the BJP to form another coalition Government under Sajjad Gani Lone as Chief Minister. He is MLA from Handwara and leader of J&K Peoples Conference. Governor is thought to be not convinced with Lone’s ability to prove majority in a truncated House where no party is anywhere near the required numbers.
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It is amid such a stalemate that controversy over Article 35A has once again getting heated up. This article was incorporated in the Constitution of the country through a Presidential order passed in 1954. And it authorises the State Legislature alone all rights regarding the issues related to the citizens or subjects of the State as they were known since the time Jammu and Kashmir was a princely State.
The article now causing fierce debates has actual roots in the Permanent Residents Certificate (PRC) Act 1931 issued by the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Among other things, both Article 35A and the PRC Act deal with the right to have property in the State and issues related to inheritance.
The article now in question allows any married man to have property in the State even if his spouse happens to be a non-State subject but the same right is not allowed to the women residents of the State in case they opt to enter into wedlock with a man from outside the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Supreme Court has upheld this though there have been exceptions in the past. Daughter of a former Chief Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir had married son of a former Governor of Punjab who was not a resident of the State and she got a reprieve from the top court to retain the property of her ancestors.
In today’s polarised atmosphere sadly putting Jammu at loggerheads with Kashmir on communal lines the issue of Article 35A and moves for its dilution are seen in the Kashmir Valley as an attempt to open the gates of the State for settlers from beyond its confines. And, thus, passions have been heightening in the Valley.
It is in this backdrop that the Governor’s plea to stay the proceedings related to Article 35A has reached the Supreme Court.
Governor Vohra had reportedly expressed the desire to be relieved but was asked by the Centre and mainly Union Home Ministry to continue in view of the Amarnath Yatra. Thus, his days at Rajbhavan are thought to be numbered and may end with the conclusion of the Yatra. More so since efforts to narrow down upon his successor in Delhi by the Centre are thought to be now being taken with great urgency.