'Settlement' of WP refugees: It's up to JK to implement recommendations, says JPC head

'Settlement' of WP refugees: It's up to JK to implement recommendations, says JPC head

The JPC report was tabled in both Houses of the Parliament on December 22, four days after it was adopted by the panel.

With its recommendations on granting citizenship and voting rights to West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir snowballing into a major controversy, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) chairman, P Bhattacharya, Wednesday said “it is up to the state legislature to take a final call on them.”

The Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs last month recommended that the Central Government “must impress upon the State Government to consider, as a one-time measure, the demand of West Pakistani Refugees to grant them the status of permanent residents of the State.”

The JPC report was tabled in both Houses of the Parliament on December 22, four days after it was adopted by the panel.

Talking to Greater Kashmir over phone from Kolkata, Bhattacharya—the Congress lawmaker from West Bengal—said “these are just recommendations.” “Their (implementation) depends on two things: the Government of India and the State legislature.”

He said the panel was not an executive authority. “The executive authority is the Jammu and Kashmir government and it is their business on how to implement the JPC recommendations,” Bhattacharya said.

He said the State Government can approach MHA on clarifications over the JPC recommendations.

The JPC report has come in for severe criticism across political and apolitical circles in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it is “aimed at altering the demography of the state.”

The 31-member panel did not have a single member from Jammu and Kashmir, taking observers by surprise while raising questions on its ‘motives’.  The state has 10 members in the parliament—six in LokSabha and four in RajyaSabha.

Asked why the panel had no member from J&K, the MP said: “What can I do? That is not my responsibility. The political parties had submitted the names.” He even maintained the report was “not prepared by our panel.”

“The report was prepared by the previous JPC,” he said, adding “We adopted the report and presented it before the Parliament”.

Bhattacharya said the committee would soon table the Action Taken Report (ATR) in the Parliament on its recommendations.

The panel which was earlier headed by BJP leader Venkaya Naidu was reconstituted on September 1, 2014 under the chairmanship of Bhattacharya. It finalized its report within three months.

 

LEGAL VIEW

Legal experts have questioned the panel’s recommendations saying it “wasn’t competent to deal with the subject matter in view of constitutional bindings.”

“In my opinion, the committee should not have dealt with the matter as it doesn’t fall within the jurisdiction of the Parliament or the central government,” said senior counsel Zaffar Ahmad Shah.

He said the recommendations are not a binding on the state government.

“If the state government implements these recommendations, it will be violating the J&K’s constitution and the law,” he told Greater Kashmir.

Legal experts also maintain as conditions defining J&K’s permanent residents is part of the State’s Constitution, the move granting them PR status “will require the legislature to go for the constitutional amendment.”

“The constitutional amendment requires support of not less than two-third of the members of both the Houses of J&K legislature,” they said.

 

SUPREME COURT PETITION

In 1987, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by West Pakistan Refugees seeking citizenship and other rights, stating   it cannot grant any relief to them in view of the peculiar constitutional position of the State.

While dismissing the petition, the Apex Court invoked Article 35 A of the Constitution of India which says “no existing law in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and no law hereafter enacted by the Legislature of the State defining the classes of persons who are, or shall be permanent residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away  or abridges  any rights conferred on the other citizens of India by any provision of this part.”

 

MHA VIEW

The Union Home Ministry had submitted before the JPC that West Pakistan refugees  can’t claim to be the permanent residents of the state.

“Legally speaking, the issue is that these people were not the owners of land in Jammu and Kashmir in 1944. They were not ‘sahib-e-jaidad’. So they do not have a right of claiming to be the permanent residents,” it—according to the JPC report—told the panel.

The Ministry further apprised the panel that granting permanent residents status to such refugees “is a political question.”

“How and when the State Government will grant them the Permanent Resident status is a political question to which we, at this juncture, cannot give a reply to,” the MHA submitted.

But the Union Home Secretary apprised the panel that “it has been writing to the State Government frequently over the issue.”

“I would request you to consider the grievances of West Pakistani refugees also and send a consolidated financial proposal to this Ministry at the earliest. The State Government should also assure that the West Pakistani refugees settled in the State will be given the status of Permanent Residents of Jammu and Kashmir,” the Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami, according to the JPC report,  wrote to State Government on November 7, 2014.