J&K governor to ask Supreme Court to put off Article 35A hearing
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Jammu & Kashmir’s new governor Satya Pal Malik — who is the administrative head of the state which has been under Governor’s Rule since the fall of the BJP-PDP government in June — said the administration would tell the top court that the views of the state’s people can only be represented by an elected government.
Even as the Valley witnessed a total shutdown on Thursday over apprehensions that Article 35A of the Constitution may be tinkered with, Jammu & Kashmir’s new governor Satya Pal Malik said the state administration will file a plea in the Supreme Court seeking a deferral of the hearing into the contentious law.
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Malik — who is the administrative head of the state which has been under Governor’s Rule since the fall of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government in June — said the administration would tell the top court that the views of the state’s people can only be represented by an elected government.
The state administration has twice, on August 3, and August 29, written to the Supreme Court seeking a deferral, on both occasions citing the preparations for the forthcoming local elections.
“How can we take a decision? As we are not an elected government, we cannot speak on behalf of the people (in the court). Thus, we feel the decision should be deferred till there is an elected government here. Our stand is clear and we will soon make an appeal before the apex court (seeking a deferral),” Malik said in the interview.
He was appointed on August 21 to replace NN Vohra, and as a former member of Parliament, is seen as the first political appointment to the post since Karan Singh between 1965 and 1967.
Malik’s statement comes at a time when the state continues to be roiled by protests related to the court’s hearing of the article of the Constitution that restricts property ownership and government jobs to permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir. The fear is that Article 35A could be scrapped after the legal challenge in the apex court.
The Supreme Court is to hear the case on Friday. On Thursday, shops, businesses, and schools and colleges in the state were closed, and roads bore a deserted look with few venturing out. Even government offices saw thin attendance. The protest, called for by separatists, is to continue on Friday. This is the fourth day in August that the state has seen a complete shutdown on account of protests related to the court hearing.
Malik said that even in the case of Article 370 of the Constitution which gives significant autonomy of the state “there are sentiments involved and I think a decision on such issues could be best deferred”.
Since August 1, there have been intermittent protests in the state against any change in Article 35A and Article 370 with the state’s main regional mainstream parties such as the National Conference and the PDP also hitting the streets and warning of a deterioration of the situation in the state if any changes are made to either article. Senior Congress leaders in the state have also warned of a massive agitation if Article 35A is altered in any way.
Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, who, under the banner of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), gave the call for the two-day shutdown blaming the “Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh of attempts to change the demography” of the state through the legal route have warned of a “mass agitation of hitting and occupying streets” if any change is made in the act.
“Despite curbs, curfews, house arrests complete strike across J&K as people express their strong resentment &protest against the nefarious design of tinkering with state subject laws. No amount of coercion will deter people from fighting this assault with all our might & conviction,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted on Thursday.
The Supreme Court will on August 31 hear a bunch of petitions against the Article 35A of the Constitution filed by NGOs and individuals.
Jammu and Kashmir has been on the boil for the past couple of years due to a spurt in local militancy and mounting deaths in security operations — the latter being an issue that was seen as a factor behind the split between the BJP and the PDP.