What is Article 35A?
It is a constitutional provision that allows the Jammu-Kashmir assembly to define permanent residents of the state. According to the Jammu-Kashmir constitution, a Permanent Resident is defined as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954, or who has been residing in the state for a period of 10 years, and has “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state”.
When was Article 35A introduced?
It was brought in by a presidential order in 1954 in order to safeguard the rights and guarantee the unique identity of the people of Jammu-Kashmir. Only the Jammu-Kashmir assembly can change the definition of PR through a law ratified by a two-thirds majority.
What is the challenge before the Supreme Court?
A batch of petitions challenged the constitutional validity of the Article 35A. A Supreme Court bench headed by the then Chief Justice J S Khehar referred the matter to a three-judge bench.
Delhi-based NGO We the Citizens, in its petition, argued that Article 35A goes against the “very spirit of oneness of India” as it creates a “class within a class of Indian citizens”.
Another petition, filed by lawyer Charu Wali Khanna, claims Article 35A discriminates against a woman’s right to property.
View and counter-view
The view from the Right is that by striking down Article 35A, it would allow people from outside Jammu-Kashmir to settle in the state and acquire land and property, and the right to vote, thus altering the demography of the Muslim-majority state.
The state’s two main political parties, PDP and NC, contend that there would be no J&K left if this provision is tampered with, and have vowed to fight the battle together.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned that if Article 35A is removed, there won’t be anyone left to carry the Tricolour in Kashmir; Omar Abdullah has called it the death knell for pro-India politics in the Valley.
The Centre has, however, refused to take a stand on the issue, with Attorney General K K Venugopal informing the court that it was “very sensitive” and required a “larger debate”.