Apex court decision revives old controversy
16 November 2001
JAMMU: The Supreme Court''s decision to return the Resettlement Act unanswered after 19 years has revived the political controversy of the early Eighties The ruling National Conference''s move to appoint a competent authority for the conduct of inquiry on the applications received from any former State subject who wants to return from Pakistan has polarised the National Conference and the Opposition over the issue, particularly in the Jammu region Its consequences will be only felt in the Jammu region from where most of the migration from the State to Pakistan took place during the Partition . Speaking to The Hindu , a senior Congress leader and former MP, Mr. Mangat Ram Sharma from Jammu, says that the National Conference was misinterpreting the Supreme Court''s decision. The court had merely declined to comment on the aspects of the law. The Congress leader says that the National Conference wants to trigger a ''civil war'' by implementing the provisions of the Act. Where will the displaced persons from Pakistan who have been settled on evacuee property go if, in future, returnees from Pakistan reclaim their property left in 1947, he asks. The Act became contentious in the 1983 Assembly elections. Both the Congress and the National Conference took vociferous stands against and for the Act. The then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, led the election campaign of the Congress. She had called the Act anti-national. With the polarisation of votes over the issue, the Congress won a majority in Jammu whereas the National Conference in Kashmir. This piece of legislation was the last major political move of Sheikh Abdullah a few months prior to his death. Analysts say that even when the Act was passed it was more of a political gimmick because in practice the Act is toothless. Parliament passed the Citizenship Act in 1955 which is equally applicable to the Jammu and Kashmir State. The Act does not make any separate provision for those persons who went to Pakistan in 1947. As residents of the State became citizens of Pakistan, they ceased to be citizens of India and could be granted citizenship by the Central Government alone. So whenever any move is made for the return of the former State subjects who had migrated to Pakistan, it can be challenged in court taking recourse to other provisions of the Constitution which govern the issue of granting citizenship.