‘A Veiled Move’: Legal Experts on Domicile Law

‘The word—Domicile—itself has been diluted’ –Dr. Sheikh Showkat, a law professor

Bhat Zubair

Srinagar: Amid Covid-19 lockdown, New Delhi Tuesday issued a notification under J&K Reorganization Order, 2020 — defining domicile rights in its newly-declared union territory.

The law grants permanent resident-ship to non-locals with 15-years of stay in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and opens gazetted and non-gazetted government jobs to citizens from all other states.

Before abrogation of its semi-autonomous status on August 5, 2019, all jobs in J&K were exclusively reserved for permanent residents of the State.

While the move has already created a social media storm in the Valley, the local unionists, including a strong votary of Domicile Law, Altaf Bukhari, has come open to criticise New Delhi’s latest move.

Amid the deafening din over the domicile law, legal experts believe that it has come at a crucial juncture of history.

It’s a veiled move’: Mudasir Yousuf, an execute member of J&K Bar Association

Earlier, our state legislature would define the permanent residents in J&K. The same setup would define the eligibility of jobs or property ownership rights in the erstwhile state.

With this notification, now, they’ve abolished the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) and introduced domicile law — which defines the residency in J&K.

As per the definition, a person who resided in J&K for 15 years qualifies for being a domicile.

But the problem is, they haven’t confined this notification with that clause only.

Earlier, DC would issue PRC; now Tehsildar, who can be easily managed, has been appointed as a domicile issuing authority.

While it apparently eases out the process to procure domicile certificates for commoners, at the same time, it’s to render the higher offices, like that of a magistrate’s, hollow with crucial records.

They’ve also included those non-local employees working in banks, central government departments or public sector undertakings for the domicile rights after a particular period of service in the state.

Even their sons and migrants living outside JK are entitled for domicile benefits. They’ve also repealed the Civil Services.

So, from a legal point of view, it’s a very dangerous situation.

For example, most of security personnel must have already served in J&K for 10 or more years. As per this notification, even their children will get benefits of this law.

So, yes, it’s a veiled move, coming at a crucial juncture of history.

The word—Domicile—itself has been diluted’: Dr. Sheikh Showkat, a law professor

The notification has defined domicile as a person “who has resided for a period of fifteen years in the UT of J&K or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in class 10th/12th examination in an educational institution located in the UT of J&K.”

So, the very the word ‘domicile’ itself has been diluted.

Besides, the original residents of the JK has been only entitled for class fourth jobs, while the higher jobs have been kept open for the entire India.

From a legal perspective, this is complete undoing of the things in the state.

It has broadened the definition of a state subject’:  –Sunil Sethi, a senior Jammu-based lawyer and a BJP spokesperson

After article 370 and 35-A went last summer, there was no protection available to the locals.

The situation was such that for every service, the people of the country were eligible to apply in JK. Thing is, in union territory, which is a centrally-administrated area, there’s no scope of any reservation.

However, non-locals competing for non-gazetted jobs in JK would’ve created a great difficulty for locals. So, in order to tie down that, this provision has been created.

This notification has broadened the definition of what was earlier a state subject.

Domiciliary creation in a UT is something which is happening only in Jammu & Kashmir, not anywhere else.

So far gazetted and non-gazetted services are concerned, everybody who’s local or who’s a domicile as per the definition of 33-A now, will be entitled to apply.

That also means the persons from Tamil Nadu, Bengal or anywhere else won’t be in a position to apply for such posts. This will be restricted to locals only.

But so far the gazetted services are concerned, that will be open to everybody. Though Section 3 says that the domiciliary provisions will apply to gazetted or non-gazetted both, but so far the gazetted is concerned, unless more clarification comes on this, they will be open for everybody.

However, what I can tell you from the numbers that I have is that, around 90 percent jobs in JK are in non-gazetted area — meaning they’re available to locals only.

And see when UT will again become state, the situation will change dramatically.

In a state, there’s a possibility to keep services within the confines of state only.

State legislature can create embargo on state services including gazette posts.

They won’t be able to restore state subject, but can introduce Himachal model.

And that is very much a legal possibility.

The tip of the iceberg’: –Arshad Andrabi, a senior legal practitioner

It’s a well-concerted move aiming at damaging our position further.

It’s the move to change our domicile law to their advantage. And the timing is curious.

When the whole world is in lockdown, population is under control and nobody is allowed to move around, they’ve chosen to implement this law.

The manner with which they’ve implemented this law is to take the advantage of the situation.

So, anybody living in JK for 15 years, his sons will be able to apply for jobs in the region. This won’t stop there. It would be followed by other things now.

There is already no ban on purchasing land here. We don’t know how many kanals of land were sold secretly. Such law only eases out the odds in favour of security persons who served in J&K for 15 years and more.

And it has happened when nobody can say anything, because everybody is afraid of his death right now because of the pandemic.

It’s a very serious situation. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

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