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After Abdullah, PDP too criticises ASG's stand on Article 35-A

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Srinagar, Sep 03: The Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party Monday condemned the remarks of the state counsel before the Supreme Court in a litigation related to Article 35-A of the Constitution, and said Governor S P Malik should ensure "a bias-free" and strong legal position of the state administration.

"The PDP has time and again raised the demand for retaining as well as empowering the constitutional powers (accorded) to Jammu and Kashmir and we strongly condemn the remarks made by the leading counsel in the matter," PDP chief spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir said in a statement here.

He was reacting to the stand taken by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India Tushar Mehta, who was representing the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the Supreme Court last week.

During the hearing, the ASG agreed to the contention that Article 35-A and certain aspects needed to be debated upon and said, "It can't be denied that there is an aspect of gender discrimination in it (Article 35-A)".

Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.

Mir claimed that the previous government led by PDP had engaged top lawyers to ensure that the state government has a strong legal position while defending Article 35-A.

"The former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti periodically reviewed the progress of the case, directing the state's law department to file appropriate and crystal clear response to ensure that the sentiments of the people are honoured," he said.

The PDP spokesman said while the proceedings of the case related to Article 35-A were pending, the power of taking the legal recourse of the state government was transferred directly in the hands of the Governor after the fall of the PDP-led government and now the Governor of the state was "morally bound to ensure that the stand of the ASG is in accordance to the will of the people".

"Earlier, PDP, while in government, ensured that country's top lawyer Fali S Nariman is engaged to defend the state and assisted by the Advocate General. Our (party) president refused to compromise on safeguarding the state's special status,” he claimed, adding “her bold stand to refuse any compromise on the state's special status and a strong legal position in the apex court is what is necessary for the state government to follow today.”

He said the party is also concerned about a petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that its provisions violate the Constitution of India.

Reiterating that the PDP's movement seeking constitutional safeguard of the state's special status would continue, Mir said, "It is a very sensitive issue and we want all to rise above politics to ensure that there is a united opposition against such assault on our identity and honour."

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