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Unfreezing PoJK Seats In Assembly Polls Centre’s Jurisdiction: EC

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By: Shabeer Ahmad | SRINAGAR
Updated: November 10, 2022 3:18
Abrogation of Article 370 gave voting rights to PoJK refugees
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Responding to a Jammu-based lawyer’s request seeking the unfreezing of eight seats out of 24 earmarked for the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) refugees as per the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution of 1956, the Election Commission has said that the issue is under the Union Government’s jurisdiction.

Advocate Aditya Sharma stated in a letter dated September 21, to the Chief Election Commissioner that J&K had witnessed a historic moment when Article 370 was abrogated by the Union of India on August 5, 2019. It opened the doors to various opportunities for the people of J&K and ended decades-long discrimination, the letter stated.

Before the abrogation of Article 370, no voting right for refugees from West Pakistan, i.e., PoJK refugees of West Pakistan, people of the Valmiki community, and many others. According to a letter, the 1956 state constitution also reserved 24 Assembly seats for the PoJK and left those seats vacant.

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Sharma further stated that after the abrogation, a ray of hope had arisen for West Pakistan Refugees and other migrants from Pakistan to have the right to vote, and for the same purpose, if the eight seats out of 24 reserved seats, which belong to West PoJK can be unfrozen, it will give long pending justice to the migrants.

Furthermore, a Parliamentary Committee report on PoJK refugees was submitted in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha that recognized that PoJK refugees were not given relief and compensation due to their non-registered status, he stated.

“The committee also recommended to unfreeze eight seats out of the 24 vacant seats,” Sharma added, saying further that in the 2022 Delimitation Commission Report, it was recommended that at least two members from the community of Kashmiri migrants be in the Legislative Assembly.

The Commission said that the Central Government may consider giving representation to refugees in the assembly as well. It is therefore submitted to consider the committee report of 2014 and the delimitation commission recommendation of 2022 for the defreezing of eight seats out of 24 for Kashmiri migrants, and refugees from PoJK, which were left vacant in the year 1956, and for giving representation to them, respectively,” Sharma said in the plea.

However, the Election Commission in its reply stated, “In reference to your letter, the Delimitation Commission constituted for the purpose of constituencies delimitation in UT of Jammu and Kashmir is already ceased to exist from May 5, 2022, after the publication of its final Delimitation order in respect of UT of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The Delimitation Commission also prepared a report titled Delimited Landscape of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which is available on the Commission’s website, according to the EC.

It also said that the Delimitation Commission had recommended to the Union Government that it consider the issue of representation by way of the nomination of representatives for the displaced persons from PoJK in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.

Therefore, the issue is now under the jurisdiction of the Union Government, the EC said in its reply. So as of now, the EC has sent these recommendations to the central government as they are.

At present, the recommendations are under consideration by the government, and we hope that it will give its decision on these recommendations very soon,” Sharma told a news agency.

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