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J&K: Marry an outsider, lose all rights
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar/PTI |
March 08, 2004 18:42 IST
Last Updated: March 09, 2004 01:14 IST
The Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly has endorsed a long-standing practice whereby the women of the state loose their permanent resident status and right to own and inherit property in the state after marriage to a non-local.
But at the cost of inviting the ire of women.
Dr Susheela Sawhney had challenged this practice, which is backed by notification No 1-L/84 dated April 20, 1927 on the Permanent Resident/State Subject issue.
The high court ruled that there is no provision in the existing laws to deal with the status of a female permanent resident who marries a non-permanent resident but added that the state legislature is empowered under Section 8 of the J&K Constitution to convert notification No 1-L/84 into a law.
The order had raked up a public debate and a political controversy with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) being criticised for not helping maintain the state's autonomy by converting notification into a law.
Subsequently, Minister for Law & Parliamentary Affairs Muzaffar Hussain Baig consulted legislators from various political parties, including the National Conference and Communist Party of India-Marxist and drafted legislation on Thursday evening. He tabled it in the lower house on Friday. The House unanimously passed the Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill, 2004.
The law minister, however, clarified that the proposed law does not alter the legal position of female descendents of permanent residents in the matter in heritance, which will continue to be in accordance with the relevant personal laws.
He said the introduction of the bill was necessitated by the high court judgement, which protects the status of permanent woman residents of the state even after their marriage to non-permanent residents.
The Bharatiya Janata Party described the state government's move as 'anti-woman. On Sunday, party president M Venkaiah Naidu said, "It is unfortunate that a party led by a woman (Congress, which is part of the ruling coalition in J&K) is supporting such a law and thus repeating its performance in the Shah Bano case. We hope that all well-meaning people, including the Left parties supporting the government and the so-called progressive women's organisations who miss no opportunity to attack us on women's issues, would make their stand clear on this law."
The point seems to have hit home. "We don't agree with the J&K unit of the party on this issue. Therefore, We will give necessary directive to see that it is changed," party spokesman S Jaipal Reddy told reporters in Delhi.
Expressing concern over the development, he insisted the party had always been in favour of protecting woman's rights at all costs.
Though the Constitution in J&K is slightly different from that of rest of India, Reddy said the party would take all steps to protect rights of woman in the state.
The All India Democratic Women's Association has described the new legislation as 'discriminatory'.
"There is no doubt a need to protect the demographic profile of the state, but this cannot and should not be done through the enactment of a highly discriminatory law against women," said AIDWA general secretary Brinda Karat.
In a statement in Delhi, Karat said the progeny of such marriages is also being discriminated against under the new law. She pointed out that the Act has no provision for women who may be deserted after such a marriage or widowed.
Kashmiri Pandits said the legislation amounts to treating the state as an entity separate from the country. "The move indicates that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government is trying to implement its hidden agenda," Kashmiri Samiti president Sunil Shakdher told PTI in Delhi. He insisted the step would mainly affect Kashmiri Pandits who have been forced out of the valley and 'have lost domicile rights'.The All India Kashmiri Samaj termed the move as a 'sinister design' of the J&K government to 'deprive' Pandit women of their constitutional rights. Samaj president M K Kaw said the community leaders would raise the issue with President A P J Abdul Kalam.