The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on Jammu and Kashmir government’s policy to award differential ex-gratia compensations to state subjects and outsiders who are the victims of riots or other similar incidents.
“Can you manage the state without the assistance of others? Can you discriminate between natives and outsiders who lost their lives while serving in your state? We know that you have a special status,” a bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said.
The court also took strong note of the affidavit filed by Additional Secretary General (Administration) on behalf of the state government and directed the Chief Secretary to file a detailed response.
“You (lawyer for J&K) are not properly advising your client. You must cooperate when you see we are burdened with so many cases,” the bench, also comprising Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, said.
The bench was hearing a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government to provide adequate security and safe passage to pilgrims stranded due to curfew in Kishtwar where communal clashes had taken place on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr.
The state government, in its fresh affidavit, however, has said, “The policy with regard to payment of ex-gratia relief to the paramilitary/security forces, defence personnel and J&K police personnel is being reviewed by the state government with the objective of providing an updated and comprehensive policy in this regard. An endeavour is is being made to complete this exercise within the shortest possible time.”
The state, at the same time, also justified its stand of differential compensation policy by invoking the Instrument of Accession and the Special Status granted to it by Article 370 of the Constitution.
“It is most respectfully submitted that where ex-gratia payments are made by way of discretionary relief, no legally enforceable right is vested in any beneficiary to claim equally or identical treatment with another beneficiary of ex-gratia reliefs under the same policy,” the affidavit said.
Earlier, the state government had sought two weeks’ time to file the affidavit but the bench directed it to do so within a week and posted the matter for hearing on Monday.
Senior advocate Bhim Singh, appearing for Sudesh Dogra of J&K National Panthers Party who has filed the PIL, had cited a government order of 1990.
He said the order was discriminatory as “the next of kin of personnel of paramilitary forces, if he is a permanent resident of J&K, is sanctioned Rs five lakh (in case of death), whereas for other personnel of paramilitary forces only Rs 2 lakh is sanctioned if they are Indian citizens.”