A red-letter day for women of J&K: Domiciles at last for family

21st July 2021

21st July 2021

Sara Pilot could now claim a domicile status for husband Sachin Pilot

The government of Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday removed the last hurdle for issuance of domicile certificates to spouses of women married outside (outside the UT). So far, children of such women domiciles of the UT were getting domicile certificates. However, call it a lacuna, or call it an oversight, or even better deliberate political posturing, there was considerable confusion regarding the spouses.

This was reason for much anxiety among women of the UT married outside as one very important member of the family, the spouse, was left out. An order was issued by the General Administration Department (GAD), Civil Secretariat, Srinagar to this effect for the issuance of spouse of a domicile.

It is clear that the word spouse covers both men and women, meaning both men married outside, or women married outside, could henceforth get domicile on the basis of the domicile of their partner. The GAD order No GAD-MTG)RBIV/19/2021-07-GAD dated 20.07.2021 has been issued by Commissioner/Secretary of the GAD Manoj Dwivedi.

All political dispensations in J&K, be it headed by the National Conference, the Congress or People’s Democratic Party, had barred the issuance of Permanent Resident Certificates (PRCs) to the husband (spouse) of all PRC women married outside. This had created a situation in which a PRC man married outside could confer PRC on his wife. Let us take the example of first family of NC, the Abdullahs, to illustrate the point better.

Farooq Abdullah conferred PRC on Mollie, a British citizen, when he married her. Similarly, his son Omar Abdullah conferred PRC on Payal Nath (his estranged wife now) when he got married to her. However, when his sister Sara Abdullah got married to Sachin Pilot, an Indian citizen, she was barred from conferring PRC on him, or their children. Now, after the order regarding domicile for ``spouse of a domicile’’, Sara will henceforth have the right to apply for domicile for her husband, Sachin Pilot, as also their children.

We can also take the example of another premier political family of Kashmir, the Muftis. Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother Tassaduq Mufti was married to (an outsider) Radhika Kapoor and conferred PRC on her. However, her sister, Dr Rubaiya Sayeed, had also got married outside JJ&K but was unable to confer PRC either on her husband or their children. Henceforth, if she chooses to, she can apply for issuance of domicile for her husband and children.

The documents required for the issuance of a domicile certificate were (a) Domicile certificate of the spouse and (b) Valid proof of marriage. The competent authority for issuance of the domicile certificate will be Tehsildar, according to the order issued on Tuesday. 

It is for the first time ever since J&K became a part of the Union of India that its men and women will stand on equal footing in all spheres. Earlier, the rights of the women stood substantially curtailed, and severely truncated, because of political stubbornness of the rulers. The PRC rules were drafted in an ambiguous manner and deliberately interpreted in a manner so as to make PRC women as having substantially less rights than their male counterparts.

Commenting on the development, former IAS K B Jandial said this addresses a lacuna in the domicile rules that had been drafted in place of PRCs. There were several categories of people who were declared to be eligible for the issuance of domicile. However, the category of ``spouse’’ just did not exist anywhere. This has now been taken care of and will go a long way to address the issue. He pointed out that ``children of a domicile’’ had been taken care of in the previous rules and that was one way of conferring domicile on the children of women married outside.

Incidentally, the battle for equality between two genders in J&K got a major fillip on October 7, 2002, when a full bench of the J&K High Court, headed by Chief Justice V K Jhanji, gave the famous Dr Susheela Sawhney verdict. The bench had held that after her marriage outside J&K, a woman PRC continued to be a PRC. This was a very significant judgment as earlier the PRCs of girls in J&K were stamped ``Valid Till Marriage’’. No such stamp was put on the PRCs issued to male PRCs.

Sant Kumar Sharma, a seasoned journalist, is an authority on Jammu and Kashmir. Two of his books on Article 370 and Delimitation are already out. The third one on Indus Waters Treaty is now out and could be bought here.

Sant began as a teacher but after six years, joined the Indian Express, Chandigarh in 1990, the year when terrorism was taking its first step in J & K and soon there would be exodus of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. He subsequently worked for The Statesman, The Times of India and Star News among others. He is based in Jammu since May 2000.

He edits a newspaper, epaper.earthnews.in, in Jammu presently.

 

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