JAMMU: The Supreme Court on Friday deferred the hearing on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Article 35A, which gives special status to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir till January next year.
According to reports, the top court posted the matter for hearing on January 19 next year.
Both the J&K government and the Centre had reportedly sought the postponement of the hearing on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A for some time on the ground that panchayat polls were due to be held across the state later this year.
Representing the J&K government, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the top court, “All the security agencies are engaged in the preparation for the local body elections in the state.”
He said that local body polls will be held in 8 phases across the state. They would begin in September and continue till December.
On his turn, Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for Centre, urged the apex court to “let local body elections finish in a peaceful manner.”
”Let elections be held peacefully. If sensitive issues come up, there would be a law and order problem,” Venugopal said.
After hearing the submissions of the state and Centre, the top court said, ”Let the elections take place. We are told there is a law and order problem.”
The separatist leaders had called for a total shutdown in Kashmir on Friday ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on the validity of Article 35A, which bars people from outside Jammu and Kashmir from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
The Joint Resistance Leadership, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, had given the call for a complete shutdown to protest against a bunch of petitions seeking to scrap Article 35A on Thursday. The separatists also called for a complete shutdown on August 31 – the day when the matter comes up for hearing in court.
Shops, business establishments and educational institutions were closed across the Valley while all kinds of transport remained off the roads due to the strike called by the separatists on Thursday. Schools were shut and attendance in government offices and banks remained thin.
Various organisations included Bar Association, transporters and traders’ bodies had extended support to the shutdown call of the JRL, comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik.
The separatists claim that the SC hearing on Article 35A it is an ”attempt to change the demography of the state.”
“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 had tweeted.
Protests also erupted in parts of the Kashmir ahead of the SC ruling on the issue, however, no untoward incident was reported from anywhere, the officials said.
Authorities imposed restrictions in some parts of the city as a precautionary measure for maintaining law and order.
They said the areas where restrictions under Section 144 CrPC have been imposed include police station Khanyar, Nowhatta, Maharajgunj, Safakadal, Rainawari, Maisuma and Kralkhud.
Security forces have been deployed in strength at vulnerable places in the city and elsewhere in Kashmir for maintaining law and order.
Top separatist leaders have been put under house arrest.
Article 35A lays down that only permanent residents of J&K shall own immovable property in the state, or get government jobs or scholarships. It empowers the state for bestowing special rights and privileges to the people.
Article 370 accords special rights and privileges to J&K citizens, including an exemption from constitutional provisions governing other states. It also empowers the state legislative assembly to frame any law without attracting a legal challenge.
Because of the allowance by Article 370, the state of J& K has its own Constitution. Article 35A and 370 were introduced to the Constitution by the founding fathers of the nation.
A non-governmental organisation, ”We the Citizens”, filed a petitioned in the top court in 2014 to abolish the law on the grounds that it was “unconstitutional”.
There are apprehensions, amongst sections of Kashmiris, that if the law is repealed or diluted, outsiders would settle in J&K.