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SC may hear pleas on Article 35A this week

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New Delhi: While the Article 35 A hearing is not in the causelist for Tuesday in the Supreme Court, the highest court is likely to hear a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, this week.

The crucial hearing assumes significance in view of the toughening stand of the state-based political parties on the sensitive issue.

The Supreme Court website, in its weekly list, has listed as many as six petitions including the lead plea of NGO 'We The Citizens' for hearing during the week.

The State administration recently requested the top court to adjourn the hearing on the pleas on various grounds, including that there was no "elected government" in the state.

"The present matter involves a sensitive issue regarding a challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution of India. A short reply has been filed by the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the lead matter 'We the Citizens' and notices have not been issued on the other petitions. It will, therefore, be requesting that the matter may kindly be heard when an elected government is in place," the State administration has said in its letter.

The apex court had deferred till January this year the hearing on the pleas after the Centre and the State said local bodies polls there would go on till December.

The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration had said the issue of Article 35-A was "very sensitive" and keeping in mind the law and order aspect, the hearing be held in January or March 2019.

"Let these matters be listed in the second week of January 2019. All interlocutory applications shall be taken up along with the main matter," the bench had said then.

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.

The bench is hearing several petitions including the one filed by NGO 'We the Citizens' through lawyer Barun Kumar Sinha.

On August 06 last year, the apex court had said a three-judge bench would decide whether the pleas challenging Article 35-A should be referred to a five-judge constitution bench for examining the larger issue of alleged violation of the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution.

Several applications, including by political parties such as the National Conference and the CPI-M, were also filed in the Supreme Court in support of Article 35-A, which also empowers the State Assembly to define "permanent residents" to bestow special rights and privileges to them.

Besides the NGO, the other petitioners on the matter are — West Pakistan Refugees Action Committee Cell 1947, Dr Charu Wali Khanna, Kali Dass, Radhika Gill and Major Ramesh Upadhyay.

The State government, while defending the article, had cited two verdicts of the constitution benches of the Supreme Court in 1961 and 1969, which had upheld the powers of the President under Article 370(1)(d) of the Constitution to pass constitutional orders.

Make ‘public commitment’ to retain Article 35-A: CPI(M)

New Delhi: The CPI (M) on Monday demanded that the Centre make a public commitment to retain Article 35-A in the Constitution that provides special privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and opposed any move to interfere with it.

On Sunday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had said its stance remained unchanged that only an elected government would be able to take a stand on Article 35-A before the Supreme Court, which is hearing a batch of petitions challenging its validity.

"The people of Jammu and Kashmir and shades of political opinion there are highly perturbed by reports of efforts to do away with Article 35-A of the Constitution...The Politbureau of the CPI(M) expresses its strong opposition to the move to interfere with Article 35-A. It calls upon the central government to make a public commitment that the Article will be retained intact in the Constitution," it said in a statement.

It also asked the central government to make its position clear on the matter.

The Jammu and Kashmir government's counsel had sought permission from the Supreme Court for circulating a letter among contesting parties for adjourning the upcoming hearing on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of the state, saying there was no "elected government" in the state.

The apex court is scheduled to hear petitions challenging Article 35-A soon.

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

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