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PDP asks Muzaffar Beigh to defend Article 35A in Supreme Court.

Twelve days before the petition seeking the scrapping of Article 35 A comes up for hearing in the Supreme Court, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has decided to defend the constitutional provision and has assigned the task to senior party leader and noted legal voice Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, a party spokesman said here today.

The decision was taken at a meeting of party leaders chaired by the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday at her Gupkar residence here, to discuss present political situation and measures needed to be taken to defend the Article at top court.

“He (Beigh) will lead team of lawyers at the Supreme Court to fight the assault being launched on state’s special position,” said party’s chief spokesman, Rafi Ahmad Mir.

A former advocate general, Beigh has practiced in the Supreme Court for several years before taking plunge into state politics. Mir said the PDP leadership in “unison shall remain on frontline” to ensure that the state’s unique position and status wasn’t fiddled with at any cost.

Already, several state political parties including National Conference, state CPI-M unit and Awami National Conference has already moved the Court seeking they should be made “intervener” in the petition. The court would take a decision on their plea on the next date of hearing which is scheduled to commence after August 27.

Article 35A is the provision in Indian constitution that grants exclusive state subject (full citizenship) rights and other privileges to permanent residents of the state. It was added to the constitution through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued by the country’s first president, Rajendra Prasad, on May 14, 1954.

The J&K constitution, which was adopted on November 17, 1956, defined a permanent resident as a person who was born or settled in the state before May 14, 1954, or who has been a resident in the state for 10 years and had “lawfully acquired” immovable property in the state before that.

A petition challenging the Article was filed by Delhi-based NGO ‘We the Citizens’ in 2014 which has sought its abrogation on the grounds that the Article was “unconstitutional” and approved by the President without any debate in Parliament. Later, three more petitions challenging the Article were admitted in the court but these were clubbed with the main one.

Considered to be bedrock of J&K’s unique position in union of India, if the constitutional provision is done away with, J&K citizens will lose all exclusive privileges including state subject law, right to property, right to employment and right to settlement.

During today’s meeting Mehbooba, the former Chief Minister directed party leaders and MLAs to mobilise party cadre and supporters at district level, amid the decision by decision by Governor NN Vohra to hold elections to Urban Local bodies and Panchayat’s from September this year.

Vohra took over the reins of the state following the demise of the Mehbooba-led government on June 19. “We will start the activity at the district level within next one week. The idea is to mobilsie the cadre,” said Mir.

But the major challenge for Mehbooba remains the internal revolt by at least seven party legislators including MLAs and MLCs who have openly accused party leadership of nepotism and promoting family raj.

There have been reports that the BJP, the erstwhile ally of the PDP, has been working behind the scene to cobble up a new political formation in which Sajad Lone could have a key role.

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