RSS-backed ‘think-tank’ plans legal challenge to Article 370

Srinagar: A Delhi-based ‘think-tank’ said to be close to the hardline Hindutva group RSS is reportedly going to attempt a challenge to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gives J&K special status.
The Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC) apparently aims to target Kashmir’s special provisions by questioning Article 35A, a corollary of Article 370. Article 35A allows the state to grant special privileges and rights to its permanent residents and not to others living there, the think-tank argues.
To try and get these special provisions scrapped, the JKSC has decided to approach the Supreme Court of India. The organisation plans to announce the date for filing the petition at a seminar in Delhi on July 11. The think-tank’s argument, reports say, is that Article 35A was incorporated in the Indian Constitution through a Presidential Order on May 14, 1954, bypassing Parliament.
Observers say the Sangh Parivar plans to make the legal challenge to Article 35A a centrepiece in the ‘battle’ against Article 370. The think-tank claims Article 35A is at the root of the “regime of rights violations” in J&K. RSS national executive member Arun Kumar is one of the advisers of JKSC.
“Based on Article 370, Article 35A was added to the Constitution. This was done not by Parliament, but via a Presidential Order. Article 35A enables the state assembly of J&K to define ‘permanent residents’ and to give them special rights and privileges. The ambit of permanent residents was deliberately kept narrow to exclude several communities,” said Aniruddha Rajput, counsel for the petitioner. “This distinction was arbitrary and archaic. The permanent residents were given discriminatory powers. Restrictions were placed on non-state subjects in terms of public employment, voting rights, acquisition of property, settlement in the state, even extending to such rights as claims to scholarships,” he argued.
The petition argues that because of Article 35A, several empowering provisions of the Constitution enumerated as Fundamental Rights such as Right to Education, Right to Information, etc have been denied to the category of non-residents despite the fact that they have resided in the state since Independence. “It has long been mythically believed that Article 370 confers special status on the state. Article 370 was only a temporary provision. It is Article 35A that creates special categories with special rights,” said Rajput.
“Article 35A is an outrage on the Constitution of India. It was positioned in the Constitution by way of an amendment which was an executive fiat without any reference to Parliament,” said Jagdeep Dhankar, former Union minister with the last NDA government and senior Supreme Court advocate who is part of the petitioning team.
“Due to Article 35A, for example, a non-permanent resident of J&K can vote in Lok Sabha elections, but not in local body elections. One can become the PM, but cannot even vote in the state assembly elections. Non-state subjects can become IAS and IPS officers, but cannot become a peon in the state,” he said.