J&K Addl Solicitor General tells court that Article 35A is ‘gender discriminatory’
Srinagar: Accepting the central and state government’s plea that the hearing of petitions challenging Article 35A could lead to a law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Supreme Court on Friday deferred the hearing till January to allow the conduct of panchayat and civic body elections in the meanwhile.
While the court was hearing arguments regarding the appropriate date of hearing, Jammu and Kashmir’s additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that Article 35A was “gender discriminatory”.
Advocate Mian Muzaffar, who appeared before the Supreme Court as part of a 14-member team of the J&K High Court Bar Association led by its president Mian Abdul Qayoom, told Kashmir Reader that the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India Deepak Mishra heard arguments of the petitioners and the counsels for the J&K government and of the Attorney General of India, who represented the Government of India. After hearing the arguments of both sides, the bench deferred the hearing till January 2019.
Secretary General of the J&K High Court Bar Association, GN Shaheen, said that the J&K additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that any debate on Article 35A at this juncture would imperil panchayat and civic body elections in the state. “If these elections do not take place, then the Rs 4,335 crore financial grant would lapse,” Mehta said.
Shaheen quoted Mehta as having said in the court: “The Article, which empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the state and provide special rights and privileges to them, is gender-discriminatory.”
Shaheen said that the Bar members countered Mehta and told him that he was misleading the court. “We told him that he was probably unaware of the decision of J&K High court’s three-member bench which has said that a woman who marries a person from outside the state has inheritance rights for property,” Shaheen said.
Attorney General of India KK Venugopal told the bench that a larger number of paramilitary forces were moving to the state for the purpose of elections, and if any sensitive issue comes up during this period, it could lead to a law and order situation.
“Let the elections get over and then we can hear it in January or February,” Venugopal suggested to the court.
The bench said that it would first hear arguments on whether the matter should be referred to a Constitution bench. It said that any challenge to a Constitutional provision does not mean the matter has to be sent to a Constitution bench.
Jammu & Kashmir’s new Governor, Satya Pal Malik, had said before the hearing that his administration would file a plea in the Supreme Court seeking deferral of the hearing due to upcoming panchayat and civic body elections.
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Malik also said that his administration would tell the top court that the views of the state’s people can only be represented by an elected government.