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Mufti Government to redraft Permanent Resident Bill

By Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR, JUNE 5. With the controversial Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill, depriving the women of Jammu and Kashmir their permanent resident status if they marry non-State subjects, set to lapse on June 11, the Mufti Government is contemplating a redraft of the proposed legislation after taking all political parties into confidence.

The Law Minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, said the Government was not in a hurry to push the Bill through in the Legislative Council, which failed to decide its fate on March 11 when the Chairman of the House adjourned the house sine die.

"If we follow the deadline, we are bound to make mistakes. So, we are redrafting the proposed legislation and incorporating the amendments that it requires, especially to take care of divorced females, widows, adopted children, and other discriminations that have so far been identified," Mr. Baig said.

On the National Conference demand for a special session of the Council to get the Bill passed, he said: "People who are compelling us to rush with the Bill are not sincere. They know that the Bill will bounce and will hurt the special position of the State in the Indian federation so that they get political mileage out of it." It would be a disaster "if we go ahead with the passing of the Bill at this stage."

The People's Democratic Party-led coalition would not like to create problems for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre as the Congress is publicly committed to sending the Bill to a select committee. The Bill, after a smooth sailing in the Assembly, triggered uproar in political circles at the national level and was used as a poll plank by many parties. This also led to a communal and regional divide between Kashmir and Jammu as well.

The NC leader, Omar Abdullah, warned that non-passage of the Bill would erode the rich culture and heritage of the State and change its ethnic, linguistic, religious and demographic character. There seems to be no differences within the coalition Government over the Bill. The Revenue Minister, Hakim Mohammad Yasin, who heads the People's Democratic Forum, said: "Let the Government draft it afresh. Then it would be approved by the Cabinet and then we can start from the Assembly."

Amending the law has become inevitable after the High Court in October last upheld the plea of women petitioners who had lost their inheritance and employment rights because they had married non-State subjects.

The Government filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the High Court order but withdrew the SLP anticipating an unfavourable verdict in the light of Article 14 of the Constitution that guarantees right to equality.

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