‘Darbar Move’ burdens exchequer: J&K HC

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court in Srinagar. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Union Territory (UT) administration to take a final call on the continuation of the 148-year-old practice of shifting capitals annually between Srinagar and Jammu, “which burdens the exchequer.”

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal, hearing a petition against the ‘Darbar Move’, observed, “There are limitations on the extent of our jurisdiction on making a declaration on the permissibility or the continuation of the ‘Darbar Move’. We defer this task to the best wisdom of those on whom the Constitution of India bestows this duty. Let the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Chief Secretary of the Union Territory of J&K examine it and take a considered decision.”

Evaluating the cost incurred by the ‘Darbar Move’ on the exchequer, the court observed, “If this practice was rationalised, the amount of money, resources and time which could be saved, could be utilised towards the welfare and development of the Union Territory, which has otherwise witnessed much turmoil. It could be utilised for protection and propagation of culture and heritage of the communities. It could also be used for facilitating expenditure on the COVID-19 related issues.”

The court held that rationalisation of the ‘Darbar Move’ was urgently required.

‘Wastage of time’

“The ‘Darbar Move’ results in wastage of tremendous amount of time, efforts and energy on inefficient and unnecessary activity [say, packing of records]. It is taxing for security forces too. It nurtures inefficiency and leads to lack of governance.

“No reason or justification at all is available for requiring the judiciary to shift with the ‘Darbar Move’. The same negatively impacts justice dispensation and impedes judicial administration.

“The ‘Darbar Move’ causes delay in justice dispensation as government records are not available to the pleaders in one region for six months at a time,” it observed.

Valuable documents

The court observed that valuable documents and resources of the Union Territory in the nature of important and sensitive government documents are put to tremendous risk in the process of their transportation as they are packed in trunks and carried in hired trucks over a distance of 300 km between Jammu and Srinagar and vice-versa twice a year. “This practice may have the consequence of imperilling State and national security,” it added.

Over 10,000 employees shift capital annually, a practice introduced in 1872 by a Dogra monarch. Regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir advocated the continuation of the practice “to help in the emotional integration between two diverse linguistic and cultural regions of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Harsh winters

The ‘Darbar Move’ involved shifting of the Maharaja’s government to Jammu to escape the harsh winters of the Kashmir Valley, which, in the 19th century, used to result in the Valley being cut off from outside the world.

The High Court noted that the continuance of this practice long after the rule of the Maharaja came to an end is not premised on consideration of more effective or efficient governance.

“Both the Jammu as well as the Srinagar regions equally require administration and governance round the year without interruption. It is unfair and opposed to public interest to deprive either region completely of access to government machinery for six months at a time,” it said.

Modern mechanisms

The court also remarked that given the modern weather control mechanisms, the consideration of extremities of weather, which was the case, reason and basis for the Darbar Move, does not hold weight today.

(With inputs from Soibam Rocky Singh from New Delhi)

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 6:54:55 PM |

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