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All Kashmir women to get Permanent Resident status

By Luv Puri

JAMMU, FEB. 15. After a decades-long battle at various fronts, women in Jammu and Kashmir have finally got justice; the State Government has to comply with the State High Court order that restored the right of Permanent Resident of the State to women married to persons from outside the State. Besides Indian citizenship, a Permanent Resident Status (PRS) or State subject status is given to people whose ancestors lived in the State for at least 10 years before May 14,1954. Only those with a PRS can buy property, get employment and are entitled to other privileges.

Discriminatory

The fresh Permanent Resident certificates would be the same for both genders. Before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court order on October 7, 2003, the State's women were being issued a Permanent Resident status with a provision of "Valid Till Marriage." After marriage, women had to re-apply for the certificate. There being no such provision for men in the State, women groups had termed it blatantly discriminatory. As per a 1967 executive order, the State Government had stated that women who married men from outside the State would lose their Permanent Resident certificate. This had sparked off women's protests in the State, led to a long legal battle and culminated in the State High Court verdict on 7th October, 2002 which gave women equal rights. A full bench comprising Justice V.K. Jhanji, Justice T. S. Doabia and Justice Muzaffar Jan questioned the legality of the entry "Valid till marriage" made on the Permanent Resident certificate, saying it violated women's fundamental rights under the Constitution and was discriminatory on the basis of sex.

Petition withdrawn

The State Government did not implement the court's order and decided to challenge it in the apex court by filing a petition. But some weeks later it decided to withdraw the petition. Attempts to introduce fresh legislation to debar women who married men from outside the State to retain a Permanent Resident certificate failed, as the related bill failed to get the required two-thirds majority in the State Legislature.

Talking to The Hindu here today, the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Jammu, Sheikh Rafiq, who is the issuing authority of the Permanent Resident certificate, said, "We have started issuing Permanent Resident Certificates without the provision of `Valid Till Marriage' to comply with the State High Court order. The certificate being given to women would be the same as to the men of the State."

The State revenue department has also decided that Kashmiri women who are married to men from outside the State and who had lost their Permanent Resident certificate before the court order, can reclaim it by showing their fathers' certificate.

This draws to a close a bitter struggle for gender justice in the State that had split the political spectrum in the recent past.

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