Srinagar: It’s for the state legislature to take a call on the issue of West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs), the Supreme Court of India ruled some three decades ago.
“In view of the peculiar constitutional position obtaining in Jammu & Kashmir, we do not see what possible relief we can give to the petitioner and those situated like him.
“All that we can say is that the position of the petitioner and those like him is anomalous and it is up to the legislature of the J&K to take action to amend legislature, such as, the Jammu & Kashmir Representation of the People Act, the Land Alienation Act, the Village Panchayat Act, etc so as to make persons like the petitioner who have migrated from West Pakistan in 1947 and who have settled down in the J&K since then, eligible to be included in the electoral roll, to acquire land, to be elected to the Panchayat, etc. etc.,” the court ruled.
The apex court pronounced its judgment on February 20, 1987 in the case titled Bachan Lal Kalgotra versus State of Jammu & Kashmir and others. The petitioner, chairman of the Action Committee of West Pakistan Refugees, had demanded ‘domicile rights’ to the refuges.
The court said that “amendment can be done by suitably amending the legislations without having to amend the J&K constitution.”
“In regard to providing employment opportunities under the state government it can be done by the government by amending the Jammu & Kashmir Civil Services, Classification of Control and Appeal Rules.
“In regard to admission to higher technical educational 376 institutions also, the Government may make these persons eligible by issuing appropriate executive directions without even having to introduce any legislation,” the court said.
It added that the refugees have a “justifiable grievance and are thus expected to be protected by the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“In the peculiar context of the Jammu & Kashmir, the Union of India also owes an obligation to make some provision for the advancement of the cultural, economic and educational rights of these persons,” the court said.
During hearing of the case, Kalgotra had pleaded that it had been four decades since the refugees migrated and settled down in the state but are denied many basic rights which other Indian citizens enjoy.