Tuesday, Oct 04, 2022

Amid Coronavirus Lockdown, Govt Comes Up With Domicile Law For Jammu And Kashmir

Eight months after the Centre revoked Article 370, which granted special status to J&K, it has now notified a law spelling out domicile of the what is now a union territory.

A man requests security personnel to let him pass a barricade, during day-3 of a nationwide lockdown, imposed in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, in Srinagar. (PTI)

Eight months after the Centre revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, it has now notified a law spelling out domicile of Jammu and Kashmir and who is eligible for employment in the region.

The order -- Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (adaptation of state laws) order 2020 -- issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of J&K, comes into force with immediate effect. The domiciles under the order has been defined under Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment) Act.

Under the law, the domiciles have been defined as those who have resided for a period of 15 years in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir or have studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10/12 examination in an educational institutions located in what is now a union territory.

It includes children of those central government officials, All India services officers, officials of public sector undertaking and autonomous body of central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, officials of central universities and recognized research institutes of central government who have served in Jammu and Kashmir for a total period of ten years. The law has empowered Tehsildars within their territorial jurisdiction to issue domicile certificates. The government of J&K UT has also been empowered to notify any other officer to be Competent Authority for issuance of domicile certificate.

The law says any person fulfilling the conditions would be deemed to be domicile of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for the purpose of appointment of any post carrying a pay scale of not more than level-4 (25500) under the UT of J&K or under local or any other (other than cantonment board) within the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the new law, jobs up to lowest level of non-gazetted rank are reserved for Jammu and Kashmir domiciles. The provision, however, would be also available to children of central government employees serving in Jammu and Kashmir for ten years and all those non-locals residing in Jammu and Kashmir for more than 15 years.

“Subject to the provisions of this Act, no person shall be eligible for appointment to a post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level-4 (25500) unless he is a domicile of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” reads section 5A of The Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralization and Recruitment) Act.

The level 4 includes posts like Junior Assistant, Constable, which is considered as the lowest category of non-gazetted posts. This indicates domiciles of J&K UT would have exclusive right on class-4th and non-gazetted posts to be advertised by the Services Selection Board from now on wards. All Indian citizens including J&K domiciles would be eligible for remaining non-gazetted and gazetted posts. Before August 5, all jobs in erstwhile state of J&K were exclusively reserved for permanent residents of the State.

On March 15, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had assured members of the newly formed Apni Party of Jammu and Kashmir, led by Altaf Bukhari, that the government didn't have any intention to make “demographic changes” in the region. Shah had informed the party delegation that J&K would have a “better domicile policy than other States in the country”.

On August 5, 2019, the Centre, amid siege, lockdown and arrests of nearly 8000 people, revoked the special status of J&K, which was guaranteed under Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution. Under Article 370 Jammu and Kashmir had a separate constitution and Article 35A prohibited people from outside from buying property in Jammu and Kashmir and ensuring job reservation for residents.

Article 35A would empower the Government of J&K to define a class of persons as constituting “permanent residents” of the erstwhile State. Also, it would allow the government to confer on these persons special rights and privileges with respect to matters of public employment and acquisition of immovable property in the State. Annulled Article 35-A was included into the Constitution of India in 1954 by a presidential order made under Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

The move has evoked a strong response in the Valley with most netizens terming it a move aimed at changing the demography of the region. Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party has taken a strong exception to it. 

Jammu Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president Syed Altaf Bukhari on Wednesday demanded that the order be put in abeyance till the COVID-19 pandemic is over. 

“It is most unfortunate that such an important order has been issued at a time when the whole country is battling for its survival and is under strict lockdown to stem the spread of deadly Coronavirus disease. While JKAP had been vehemently demanding Domicile Rights on land and jobs for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the order issued by the union government reflects a casual exercise carried out at the bureaucratic level without taking aspirations and expectations of people into consideration,” Bukhari said.