“Jammu & Kashmir resettlement law”

The law

  • The Jammu & Kashmir Grant of Permit for Resettlement in (or Permanent Return to) the State Act, 1982, was passed by the Assembly to “provide for regulation of procedure for grant of permit for resettlement in or permanent return to the State of the permanent residents” and their descendants who had migrated to Pakistan between March 1, 1947 and May 14, 1954.
  • Mass killing of Muslims in Jammu in 1947 and its ramifications are the main reason why the law was introduced. While there are no official figures, British historian Alex von Tunzelmann writes in Indian Summer that “more or less the entire Muslim population of Jammu, amounting to half a million people, was displaced” by then.

The controversy

  • The Bill was introduced on March 8, 1980 by National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather and became law on October 6, 1982. It pitted the NC government against the then Congress government at the Centre. Both Houses of the state legislature passed the Bill in April 1982 but Governor B K Nehru returned it for reconsideration that September. Amid the Congress’s opposition, the Bill was again passed by both Houses, and this time the Governor gave assent.
  • But then President Giani Zail Singh had already sent a presidential reference to the Supreme Court seeking its opinion regarding the law’s constitutional validity. The case remained pending for almost two decades until November 8, 2001, when a five-member Constitution Bench led by then CJI S P Barocha returned it unanswered. Later, Jammu-based Panthers Party challenged the law in the SC.
  • Rather, who moved the Bill during Sheikh Mohd Abdullah’s tenure, said about the challenge: “How is it unconstitutional? Section 6 of the J&K Constitution has a provision for those who were stuck in areas that became Pakistan in 1947, saying they can return under a resettlement law enacted by the state legislature. The Indian Constitution’s Articles 5 and 7 too permit it. There is a provision that those who migrated to Pakistan can return under a law of the legislature. The only condition was to pass a law, so we did that.”


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