Supreme Court to resume hearings on Article 35A this week

Article 35A protest (File) A protest in Srinagar to demand retention of Article 35A | PTI

The Supreme Court is expected to resume hearings this week over several petitions seeking the scrapping of Article 35A of the Constitution, which restricts non-natives of Jammu and Kashmir from buying or owning property in the state. The Supreme Court is expected to take up the Article 35A issue on August 31.

The Supreme Court had on August 6 adjourned hearings over the matter to “the week commencing August 27”. The hearing had been adjourned as Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, one of three judges on the bench hearing the case, was not present in court on August 6, said Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

On Sunday, the National Conference engaged the services of former solicitor general of India Gopal Subramanium to argue against repealing Article 35A. There are apprehensions, among sections of Kashmiris, that if Article 35A is repealed or diluted, outsiders would settle in Jammu and Kashmir.

While the Narendra Modi government had asked for more time from the Supreme Court to to present its response on Article 35A, organisations affiliated to the BJP have been demanding scrapping of the section. On the other hand, Congress leaders such as Mani Shankar Aiyar and Manish Tewari have in recent days, argued for the retention of Article 35A.

Separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had tweeted on Friday that the Joint Resistance Leadership would organise a statewide hartal on August 30-31 to coincide with the Supreme Court hearings. During the previous Supreme Court hearing also, a strike by separatist groups on Article 35A had crippled life in the Kashmir valley on August 5-6.

Article 35A of the Constitution bars non-natives from owning property in Jammu and Kashmir and grants special privileges to the residents of the state. Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution by a presidential order in 1954, stating all those living in Jammu and Kashmir at that time and also those who lived in the state for 10 years anytime since, would be considered as its permanent residents.

A non-governmental organisation, We the Citizens, filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2014 to repeal Article 35A on the grounds that it was "unconstitutional". We the Citizens has been linked to the RSS.

(With inputs from Tariq Bhat)