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Kashmir file missing of article 35 A in Union Home Ministry

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New Delhi, Aug. 19: A 63-year-old file containing legal opinion on Article 35A has vanished from North Block’s high-security vaults at a time the provision, which grants special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, faces a legal challenge to its constitutionality.

Sources said the 1954 file contained the then attorney-general’s opinion justifying the insertion of Article 35A into the Constitution that year through a presidential order rather than a constitutional amendment.

The Supreme Court is now hearing a petition by a Sangh-backed NGO that has sought the scrapping of the article, which bars outsiders from acquiring land or jobs in Jammu and Kashmir, on the ground that it was introduced without Parliament’s approval.

“Our employees are frantically searching for the file, which is crucial to the case as we have to convey our stand in the Supreme Court at the next hearing on August 29,” a senior Union home ministry official said.

He said the file had disappeared from the ministry’s legal and administrative records section, perhaps during the ministry’s Swachh Bharat campaign between June 22 and 26 in 2015 when it weeded out hundreds of old files.

“All section officers had undertaken the drive, which was meant to get rid of the old and less-important documents,” the official said.

Many in Kashmir fear that the Sangh-BJP would be only too glad to see the courts strike down Article 35A, which is a stumbling block to any attempts to change the demography of India’s only Muslim-majority state. The parivar has been historically opposed to the state’s special status.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose party is a BJP ally, has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh to warn against any “dilution” of the article.

Home ministry sources said the Centre was unlikely to take any stand in the apex court on the issue.

“It’s a procedural matter, and it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide. The attorney-general (K.K. Venugopal) is preparing the reply to be submitted before the court on August 29,” an official said.

“He had recently asked for the 1954 file, which is when we realised that it had disappeared.”

Article 35A also allows the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to frame laws without attracting any challenge on the ground of violating the right to equality of people from other states.

Sources said the Centre had already sought intelligence inputs on the possible fallout in Kashmir if the apex court revoked or amended the article, and been warned that it could trigger unrest.(The telegraph)

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