PUCL Bulletin, December 2001

A statement on the controversy over the Resettlement bill
-- By Mr. Balraj Puri, Convenor, PUCL J&K State,

The National Conference government should honour the assurance given by Sheikh Abdullah when Resettlement Bill was passed in 1982 that the Displaced Persons settled on the evacuee property would not be dispossessed if emigrants from Pakistan returned. He said that Sheikh Sahib had agreed with his suggestion to enact this assurance in the form of a law. He also referred to an earlier judgement of the Supreme Court under which evacuees were not entitled to file any claim over the property they had left behind as limitation period of 12 years, prescribed under the Evacuees (Administration of Poverty) Act of 1949, was long over. In compliance with the moral and political commitment of Sheikh Abdullah and legal position enunciated by the Supreme Court, a categorical reiteration by the state government to protect the rights of the Displaced Persons from PoK, would allay their fears created by the current controversy over the Resettlement Act.

It was not correct to call the return by the Supreme Court of the reference to it as vindication of the state government. The apex court had only refused to give any opinion on the constitutional validity of the Act.

There were a number of anomalies, which had to be sorted out before the Act was implemented; the Indian Citizenship Act was applicable to the state and conflicted with the Resettlement Act with regard to grant of citizenship. There could not be two authorities with the same powers. There should be a dispassionate debate over legal and political implications of the Act. An ill informed and prejudiced public wrangling over it was fraught with dangerous potentialities.

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