In what could prove to be more embarrassing for the state government, a 1954 file containing legal opinion on Article 35A has gone missing from North Block’s high-security vaults. The loss comes to fore at a time the provision faces a legal challenge to its constitutionality.
Article 35 A, which grants special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, is currently being discussed in Supreme court after a RSS backed NGO filed a petition demanding its abrogation from the constitution.
According to a media report, the 63 year old file contained the then attorney-general’s opinion justifying the insertion of Article 35A into the Constitution that year through a presidential order rather than a constitutional amendment.
“Our employees are frantically searching for the file, which is crucial to the case as we have to convey our stand in the Supreme Court at the next hearing on August 29,” a senior Union home ministry official told The Telegraph.
According to the official of the Home ministry the file had disappeared from the ministry’s legal and administrative records section, perhaps during the ministry’s Swachh Bharat campaign between June 22 and 26 in 2015 when it weeded out hundreds of old files.
“All section officers had undertaken the drive, which was meant to get rid of the old and less-important documents,” the leading daily quoted the official.
Meanwhile, four Jammu and Kashmir cabinet ministers from the ruling PDP on Saturday travelled to New Delhi to garner the support for the Article 35A from the Union cabinet.
Earlier, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the future course of action regarding the petition on Article 35A in Supreme Court. However, according to the sources, the Prime Minister and the Union Minister has told the Mufti that they cannot interfere in the matter since it is now in the hands of Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, many in Kashmir fear that the Sangh-BJP would be only too glad to see the courts strike down Article 35A, which is a stumbling block to any attempts to change the demography of India’s only Muslim-majority state. The Sangh parivar has been historically opposed to the state’s special status.
According to the report, the attorney-general has recently asked for the 1954 file before submitting the reply on the issue in the apex court.
“It’s a procedural matter, and it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide. The attorney-general (K.K. Venugopal) is preparing the reply to be submitted before the court on August 29,” an official was quoted as saying by the paper.
“He had recently asked for the 1954 file, which is when we realised that it had disappeared.”
Meanwhile the news report also quoted the anonyms sources about the Centre government which had already sought intelligence inputs on the possible fallout in Kashmir if the apex court revoked or amended the article, and been warned that it could trigger unrest.