Rashid Paul

Non-migrant Hindus can’t be treated as Kashmiri Pandits: HC

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Justice Sanjeev Kumar dismisses petition filed by Rajeshwar Singh and others

Srinagar: The J&K High Court today dismissed a petition praying all the Hindus who did not migrate like many non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits, be treated as Kashmiri Pandits.

The petition was filed by one Rajeshwar Singh and some other persons seeking a command to the authorities to treat all the Hindus who did not migrate like many Kashmiri Pandits, as Kashmiri Pandits.

The petitioners wanted the quota benefits for appointment in J&K government service to Kashmiri Pandits be extended to all the Hindus who have been living in Kashmir since 1989.

A number of Kashmiri Pandits had left Kashmir at the outbreak of militancy in early 90’s and later on special quota was reserved for them in J&K government services as part of their rehabilitation programme under the Prime Ministers Package for Jammu and Kashmir.

The benefit of quota was later expanded to include the Kashmiri Pandits who had chosen not to migrate and stayed put in Kashmir.

Pronouncing his judgment Justice Sanjeev Kumar said “Kashmiri Pandits is a separately identifiable community distinct from other Hindus residing in the Valley like Rajputs, Brahmins other than Kashmiri Pandits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and many others”.

He rejected the contention of counsel for the petitioners that the petitioners – mostly Kshatriyas, Rajputs, Scheduled Caste non- Kashmiri Brahmins and others deserve to be treated as Kashmiri Pandits.

He said they (Kshatriyas, Rajputs, Scheduled Caste non- Kashmiri Brahmins and others) cannot be admitted to the benefits of quota in J&K government service jobs under Prime Minister’s package to Kashmiri migrant and non migrant Pandits.

“I find no merit in the petition and the same is, accordingly, dismissed along with connected application”, he ordered.

Altaf Mehraj, counsel for the petitioners submitted “the term “Kashmiri Pandits” used in SRO 425 of 2017 is wide enough to include all non-migrant castes and communities of Hindus residing in the Valley and have similarly suffered as non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits”.

The judge found the argument as preposterous saying “it cannot be accepted in the face of clear language of SRO 425 of 2017”.

The judgment further said, “it needs to be noticed that the petitioners have not challenged SRO 425 whereby the Rules of 2009 have been amended to provide the category of non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits for admitting them to the benefit of revised package of Prime Minister for employment and rehabilitation”.

In the absence of such challenge, the only question that remains to be determined in this petition is whether the petitioners, who are, admittedly, not Kashmiri Pandits but belong to different castes of Hindus, can be brought within the definition of “Kashmiri Pandits”, he observed

“Despite great amount of persuasion counsel for the petitioners, I regret my inability to accept such broad definition of “Kashmiri Pandits”. It is true that neither in SRO 425 nor in the Rules of 2009 as amended vide SRO 425 of 2017, the term “Kashmiri Pandit family” has been defined”, observed Justice Kumar.

The only way to find out the true meaning of the term “Kashmiri Pandit family,” is to apply the common parlance principle, he said.

“There is no denying the fact that in common parlance, Kashmiri Pandit is a community of Kashmiri speaking Brahmins living in the Valley from generations and are distinctly identified by their dress, customs and traditions etc. etc”, he said.

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