“At the outset, I would like to mention that the government is not making or even considering any changes to the act governing permanent resident certificates in the state. It is an integral part of the legal structure of Jammu and Kashmir and there is no attempt whatsoever to tamper with this law,” Malik said in a letter addressed to former CM Omar Abdullah, who had opposed the move in a letter.
“As for the matters in the rest of your letter, I would like to highlight that no changes in the procedural rules governing the issue of PRCs will ever be done without larger consultations with all stakeholders. Consultations are essential so as to avoid any unnecessary apprehensions in the minds of anyone,” the governor said.
However, he said, “in view of the concerns expressed by you, I will assure you that nothing will be done to modify the procedures for issuing PRCs”. “I may like to point out here to you that seeking a PRC is one of the services under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Services Guarantee Act of 2011. As per this act, a PRC by a genuine state subject applicant should be obtained within a period of 30 days from the date of application. It has been observed that many genuine applicants face avoidable difficulties in getting a PRC within these timelines.
“There have also been complaints that the issuance of these certificates gets delayed due to a variety of procedural reasons. It is in this context of having a hassle-free process of bonafide applicants that I believe the revenue department has sought comments from a few others. This is a routine administrative matter and unnecessary meanings should not be read into it,” he said.
As a senior political leader, the governor said, “I would request you not to pay heed to such frivolous and unfounded reports. In fact, you have an obligation to dispel rather than promote unnecessary mistrust among the people and are always welcome to discuss issues with me, which you have been doing once in a while.”
Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are up in arms against Malik over his alleged efforts to change the process of granting PRC in the state, a contentious issue in the Valley.
The Jammu and Kashmir Congress and People’s Conference on Sunday saying any changes in the procedure for granting PRCs in the state would be “unacceptable”.
“The governor administration needs to restrict itself to basic governance. No structural changes pertaining to PRC or J&K Bank are acceptable. Restrict your energies to what u r (you are) mandated to do — which incidentally u r (you are) not doing. Please don’t invent new problems,” People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone wrote on Twitter.
This followed senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kavinder Gupta’s remarks that the state administration was contemplating to simplify the procedure for grant of PRCs and a timeline should be fixed for its issuance under the Public Services Guarantee Act.
Omar Abdullah too expressed his displeasure with the move and called the reported directions of the Governor-led state administrative council (SAC) “an attempt to distort the demography of the state” and “detrimental to J&K’s special status”.
“We are obligated to write to you at a time when you are mulling changes to the permanent resident certificate rules. Our party, the National Conference, is of the opinion that this is an attempt to distort the demography of the state and finds it detrimental to J-K’s special status,” Abdullah said in a letter to the governor.
Asserting that the SAC was “unilaterally bringing changes” in the working of institutions and procedures in the state, the NC leader said it was against the principal and spirit of democracy and participative governance. “The (media) reports say that directions have already been issued to the concerned officials to make changes in the procedure pertaining to the issuance of these certificates,” Abdullah said. “It is highly unfortunate that no wider consultations with any political party of the state and other stakeholders were carried out,” he added.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister said, “Any misadventure could disturb the fragile and precarious peace” in the sensitive state of Jammu and Kashmir. “In addition, it is a brazen act to further create mistrust among people here and can have serious ramifications for the prospects of peace and harmony in J-K,” Abdullah said.
Experts feel any tinkering with PRC law would automatically weaken Article 35A, which empowers J&K Assembly to define ‘permanent residents’ and grants special privileges to residents of the State.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a bunch of petitions seeking abrogation of the legislation, which was added by a presidential order in 1954 through Article 370 of the Constitution. The petitions have led to turmoil across the state and fears that Article 370 and Article 35-A may be scrapped.