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Abrogate J&K Resettlement Act: Centre

Abrogate J&K Resettlement Act: Centre

Author: Syed Liaquat Ali
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: May 13, 2002

Fearing legal entry of militants into Jammu and Kashmir, the Vajpayee government has demanded the abrogation of the controversial Jammu and Kashmir Resettlement Act.

The Centre said the operation of the Act in the state, which is a victim of cross-border terrorism, would compromise national interest. "This will endanger national security and public order."

The Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference government decided to enforce the Act after a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court refused to answer a presidential reference on it last year.

The legislation, passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 1982 would allow migrated Kashmiris, including their descendants, to claim evacuee properties and to settle down in the state.

However, the apex court in February stayed the implementation of the legislation on a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) and sought responses from the Centre and the state government.

An affidavit filed recently by the Union Home Ministry said the legislation encroached upon exclusive powers of the Centre to regulate entry and stay of foreign nationals in India. Moreover, the legislation was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, the Citizenship Act and the Foreigners Act, it added.

The affidavit said a person who was not a citizen of India could not become a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the state government refused to buy these arguments. A counter-affidavit filed through counsel Anis Suhrawardy said the state assembly was empowered to enact a law to regulate the return and resettlement of Kashmiris, who had migrated to Pakistan after March 1947.

The Union Government said the legislation would enable migrated Pakistani citizens, who had even served in the armed forces and fought against India, to return at any time to resettle in the state.

The affidavit said the Act does not have a provision for verifying the antecedents of an applicant.

There was nothing in it to prevent the applicant from misusing the provisions of the legislation by reclaiming evacuee property and returning back to Pakistan, it added.

The Home Ministry said: "At the best of times, no nation permits migration in this manner to anyone without scrutiny."

The state government rejected the contention, saying that the Act has sufficient provisions to prevent entry of unwanted elements and to allow only the genuine migrated Kashmiris to resettle.

The apex court will hear the PILs in August.

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