Jammu & Kashmir Could Soon Get A Domicile Law Akin To Himachal Pradesh

Jammu and Kashmir is all set to get a Domicile Law as early as the end of this month according to media reports.  The Domicile Law will ensure the protection of land and jobs for the permanent residents of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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The Central Government considers the introduction of the new law as a major confidence-building exercise. On August 5, 2019, the Government of India scrapped Article 370 and Article 35-A, both these constitutional provisions used to confer certain property and job rights to the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Domicile Law, according to the sources, will protect the rights of locals. Last Month Union Minister Jitendra Singh had assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir that a domicile law would be implemented soon and will be followed by the Land Act.

Domicile is the region in which a person has a permanent residence. It is immaterial whether a person has a house or residence, but is important as it concerns to the intention of a person to remain at a place forever unless circumstances should occur to change his/her intentions.

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Any person can acquire domicile in India by making a declaration in writing of his/her desire to acquire a domicile in India, provided he/she has been a resident of India for at least one year prior to making of the declaration. The State Governments issue the domicile certificate to prove that a person is a resident of a certain state. A person can be a domicile by birth or by choice.

Domicile Law – Jammu and Kashmir

The new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir wants New Delhi to implement the Himachal Pradesh pattern to safeguard the rights of locals. The recent controversy over notification of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court —inviting applications for 33 posts from across the country had sent jitters across the locals both in Jammu and Kashmir.

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It escalated fears among the residents of losing not only jobs but also land to “outsiders” post revocation of Article 370 that granted J&K special status. In the wake of Centre’s announcement in the Rajya Sabha in December last year that it would not bring any legislation on the lines of Article 371 for protection of land and property in J&K further scared the locals.

In case the Union Ministry of Home Affairs accepts the recommendations on introducing the Himachal-pattern domicile policy, it would not only calm frayed nerves and silence the Opposition, but also ensure the control of local authority within the UT over jobs, besides regulating the use of land for outsiders.

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It will also help the government fulfil the demand of political parties to preserve the ethnic culture of Dogras, Kashmiris, Gujjars, Paharis and other communities on the pattern of Himachal and northeastern states.

Till the formal bifurcation of the erstwhile state of J&K on October 31 last year, the people of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status granted under Articles 370 and 35A. Under Article 370, the accent of J&K Assembly was required to apply any law passed by the Indian Parliament. The law of citizenship, ownership of property and fundamental rights of the residents of Jammu and Kashmir was different from the residents living in the rest of India.

Under Article 370, citizens from other states could not buy property in J&K, however, nothing in the Indian Constitution prevented Jammu and Kashmir locals from buying a property in India.

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Similarly, Article 35A of the Indian Constitution granted J&K legislature full discretionary powers to decide the “permanent residents” of the state. It gave “permanent residents” special rights and privileges regarding employment with the state government, acquisition of property in the state, settling in the state, and the right to scholarships and other forms of aid that the state government provides.

It also allowed the state legislature to impose any restrictions on persons other than permanent residents regarding employment and acquisition of property.

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Under the Himachal Pradesh domicile policy, a bonafide Himachali “is a person who has a permanent home in Himachal Pradesh and includes a person who has been residing in Himachal Pradesh for a period of not less than 20 years (earlier it was 15 years) or a person who has a permanent home in Himachal Pradesh but living outside Himachal on account of his occupation”.

There are also conditions listed under which children of those persons who are entitled to grant of certificate of bonafide Himachali are also granted domicile certificates, and hence become eligible for benefits, be it for education or other purposes.