In a historic judgement, the J&K and Ladakh High Court has ordered an “end to the discrimination” against Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) refugees of 1947 settled outside Jammu and Kashmir.

Justice Rahul Bharti in his judgement called the discrimination against PoJK refugees “discretion engineered discrimination on the part of successive governments of the then State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The High Court directed the Central government to treat 5300 displaced families of PoJK of 1947 through their successors/legal heirs settled out of J&K alike and equally with 26,319 displaced families settled in the erstwhile State and consequently work out a one time settlement rehabilitation package for them.

High Court has also directed the government to accord same status and entitlements in their respective favour as held and enjoyed by 26,319 displaced families of PoJK of 1947 settled in erstwhile State of J&K and the needful should be done at the earliest and preferably within a period of next six months.

“Alike in pain and deprivation but disliked in relief and rehabilitation. While the pain and deprivation of these 5300 uprooted and displaced families came to be assuaged in due course of time by the law of nature itself but remained un-assuaged by the lawmakers and lawmen all along compounding pain, suffering and deprivation to pass in inheritance even to next generations,” Justice Rahul Bharti said.

The High Court said that the transformation of constitutional status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir with coming into force of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 has self-paved the way to the reliefs sought alike by the petitioners leaving this court just to guide the grant of reliefs claimed by the petitioners to be carried out by the Union of India by its own Constitutional commitment.

“Before the J&K Reorganization Act, 2019, the relationship of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and the Union of India was getting governed by restricted application of the Constitution of India leaving or reserving little say with the Government of India to intermeddle, interject or injunct the decision making,” the court said.

It said that now after the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, the Government of India, through its Ministry of Home Affairs, has come to revise its response in the case from being a passive voice to become an active voice by registering its willingness to do the course correction in all respects and aspects beginning with in extending the one time settlement benefit of equal extent and amount in favor of 5300 displaced families PoJK 1947 being represented by the petitioners as being successors-in-interest/legal heirs as otherwise made available to 26,319 displaced families PoJK, 1947 who had stayed and settled in the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir.

“The mindset to exclude the known 5300 displaced families of PoJK 1947 not settled in the State of Jammu & Kashmir from getting any legal status and recognition got exhibited with legislation Jammu & Kashmir Displaced Persons (Permanent Settlement) Act, 1971,” the High Court said.

It said that just by text orientation of one definition in the Act, 5300 displaced families came to be disqualified legally from having any say and status in the State of Jammu & Kashmir notwithstanding their displacement from the princely State.

“This court has reasons and basis to make a safe inference that the then Governments in J&K intentionally kept the displaced persons of PoJK settled outside out of purview of relief and rehabilitation package in exploit of being its domain of decision making admitting of no dictation from Government of India because of constitutional relationship,” the court said.

The court said that there was no legal basis but a political motive in keeping the displaced families settled outside J&K to remain out of the purview of the benefits of relief and rehabilitation package.

“Now, the Government of India and the government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are on the same page intending to extend the benefit even to these 5300 displaced families and their successors,” the High Court said.

The court said that it is equally pertinent to mention that out of Rs 2000 crore, an amount of Rs 1457 crore has been spent leaving an unutilized amount within the prescribed cap of which amount, the other displaced families of PoJK of 1947 can be duly taken care of.