After the abrogation of Article 370 which gave special status to the residents of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state, the government of India has now spelt out the rules for domicile rights in J&K. The order- Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (adaptation of state laws) Order, 2020 - issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs comes into force with immediate effect.
As per the order, a person who has resided in Jammu and Kashmir for a period of 15 years or has studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10th and 12th examination in a school within the region shall be deemed to be the domicile of the UT.
It also includes the children of the central government officials who have served in Jammu and Kashmir for a period of ten years.
The new 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 the competent authority for the issuance of a domicile certificate.
In the new arrangement, jobs up to the lowest level of non-gazetted ranks are reserved for Jammu and Kashmir domiciles. The provision, however, would also be 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 (Decentralisation and Recruitment) Act.
Until J&K was stripped of its special status granted under Article 370 and bifurcated into two UTs last August, Article 35 A of the Constitution empowered the assembly to define a J&K resident. Only J&K residents were eligible to apply for jobs or own immovable property in the erstwhile state.
Meanwhile, National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah questioned the “suspect timing” of the domicile rules defined by the Centre amid the prevailing situation owing to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Talk about suspect timing. At a time when all our efforts & attention should be focused on the #COVID outbreak, the government slips in a new domicile law for J&K. Insult is heaped on injury when we see the law offers none of the protections that had been promised," Omar said in a series of tweets.
The National Conference leader said that the new law was so hollow that even politicians with "Delhi's blessings" were forced to criticize it. "You can imagine how hollow the domicile law is from the fact that even the new party created with Delhi's blessings, whose leaders were lobbying in Delhi for this law, have been forced to criticise the #JKdomicilelaw," he added.
Taking a strong exception to the central government order defining domicile law for J&K, Jammu Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari 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.
He demanded that the order be put in abeyance till the country is out of danger arising out of COVID-19 deadly disease.
“This order in its entirety is a casual attempt, cosmetic in nature, to hoodwink the people of Jammu and Kashmir who genuinely believed that post-October 31, 2019, their rights and privileges in the matter of employment and other rights would remain as it had been,” the JKAP president remarked.