Soon after Kashmir Press Club announced that it is holding its elections on February 15, Jammu and Kashmir government has stalled the re-registration process of the KPC. The abeyance of the re-registration, granted just only last month, is leading to strong speculations that the government wants to take over the independent press body, which has become a voice of journalists in the valley over the past two years.
The move to put the registration of the club in abeyance has been seen as an attempt by the government to stall elections of the club.
"I received communication from the deputy commissioner in Srinagar's office to put re-registration of Kashmir Press Club in abeyance and accordingly I issued the order,” Mehmood Ahmad Shah, registrar of societies, told Outlook. He said the Srinagar administration has put a hold on the club’s re-registration “on the basis of a report received from SSP CID (Hqrs).”
A senior government official said the club is free to hold elections even if the registration of the club is in abeyance.
However, others have a different take on the issue. Advocate General of J&K D C Raina says he is not privy to this case but if an authority has given registration, it also has the powers to withhold it. He says his generalized view is that any society whose registration has been put in abeyance cannot hold the polls. A senior official from the law department pleading anonymity says though the KPC cannot hold elections, the present body would continue till the next elections.
On January 13, the management of the KPS announced the government has communicated to the management the re-registration process of the Club had been completed.
“The club management had been waiting for this process to complete for about six months. Since the process is complete now, the existing management has decided to hold the elections for the new management body as mandated by the club’s registered constitution,” a statement of the KPC said. “The elections will be held on February 15 as per the rules defined in the constitution of the society and keeping all covid protocols in mind.”
However, Poloview Srinagar KPS received an order from the Registrar of Firms and Societies, Kashmir on January 14 informing them that the re-registration certificate that was issued to the club on December 29, 2021, under the Society Registration Act, 1860 has been kept in abeyance.
In April 2021, the government issued a notice to the already registered societies of the region for re-registration. Following the notice, the elected management body of the KPC applied for the re-registration and by the first week of May 2021 filed the application for grant of registration under the Society Registration Act, 1860 before the Registrar of Firms and Societies, Kashmir, Srinagar.
The Registration Certificate was issued to the club following a due process and clearance mechanism, including the non-involvement, verification of character and antecedents certificate that was issued by the office of district commissioner Srinagar. “It took the concerned authorities around six months to verify and then issue a certificate of re-registration. And now after a few days of the re-registration, the government has put it in abeyance. It sounds strange,” said an official of the club.