What have you done for Pandits: SC asks J&K

Economic Times, January 18, 2011

Intro: Centre Assures Court All House Auctions Will Be Declared Illegal
The Supreme Court has expressed displeasure over inertia of the Jammu and Kashmir government to implement rehabilitation packages for Kashmiri Pandits who fled the Valley in the aftermath of insurgency. It asked the state to take firm action to ameliorate their condition.

"Tell us what have you (state government) done with your promise of providing 15,000 jobs? Have you given a single job? Or, for that matter, have you given them a single house," asked a threejudge bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia on Monday. We don't want to go by your dream proposals, but want some firm action".

It was hearing a petition filed by the All India Kashmiri Samaj and others alleging neither the state government nor the Centre was addressing grievances of Kashmiri Pandits who have been suffering for over two decades.

The court asked the state government to furnish data on steps taken to ameliorate the plight of Pandits. It asked the state to explain whether the government had set aside even a single sale of house as illegal since hundreds of houses between 1990-1997 belonging to Pandits had been auctioned and sold illegally after the victims fled the Valley.

"Can you show us even one instance where you have set aside the sale and given it back to the victim." The bench granted four weeks to the state government to explain it.

Earlier, the court had sought a response from the state government on 1,618-crore special package offered by Centre for restoring properties and providing jobs to migrant Pandits. It also expressed reservations over the Centre's scheme saying it was not clear as to how the migrants on return will stay without any accommodation.

"Where will people who want to go back stay? Now, their properties have been sold or auctioned. There are number of petitions pending in the High Court. How will they go? Without house, how can people go back to Jammu and Kashmir," the bench asked.

Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising on behalf of the Centre, however, assured the court that properties auctioned between 1990 to 1997 would be declared "illegal" and would be "restored" to owners. "All those auctions are illegal and they will be cancelled," she had said. According to the Centre, 12.5 crore has already been allocated to the state government for providing transit housing to the migrants.