Ladakh HC rules all Kashmiri Hindus not Kashmir Pandits

Express News Service

SRINAGAR:  In a significant verdict, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court have ruled that all Kashmiri Hindus are not Kashmiri Pandits.

“There is no denying the fact that in common parlance, Kashmiri Pandit is a community of Kashmiri-speaking Brahmins living in Kashmir from generations and are distinctly identified by their dress, customs, and traditions etc. Kashmiri Pandits is a separately identifiable community distinct from other Hindus residing in the Valley like Rajputs, Brahmins other than Kashmiri Pandits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and many others,” said Justice Sanjeev Kumar while dismissing a petition seeking appointments against the quota of jobs provided for Kashmiri non-migrant Pandits under the Prime Minister’s Package.

He said it is difficult to accept the contention of the petitioners, who are mostly Kshatriyas, Rajputs, Scheduled Caste non- Kashmiri Brahmins, etc, to be treated as Kashmiri Pandits and admitted to the benefits of the Prime Minister’s revised package for return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants given effect to by the Rules of 2009 read with SRO 425 of 2017.

The petitioner’s lawyer had advocated that in absence of any definition of Kashmiri Pandits given in the SRO, all Hindus, who are staying in Kashmir and did not migrate like non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits, should be treated as “Kashmiri Pandits”.

The judge, however, said, “I regret my inability to accept such broad definition of “Kashmiri Pandits”. It is true that neither in SRO 425 nor in the Rules of 2009 as amended vide SRO 425 of 2017, the term “Kashmiri Pandit family” has been defined. What is, however, defined in Rule 2(ca), the term “’Kashmiri Pandit’ means a person belonging to Kashmiri Pandit family, who has not migrated from Kashmir after 1st of November, 1989 and is presently residing in Kashmir Valley”.

In their petition, some non-migrant Kashmiri Hindus had sought to specify the quota out of 1997 posts advertised by the government through a notification dated 01.12.2020 for Kashmiri migrants and non migrant Pandits.

“For the foregoing reasons, I find no merit in the petition and the same is, accordingly, dismissed along with connected application,” ordered Justice Sanjeev Kumar.

The judge noted that on the same set of principles and laws, a plea filed by Sikh community seeking the same benefits under the Prime Minister’s Scheme was dismissed earlier by the court.

This Court vides its judgment dated 14.02.2019 had rejected the contention of petitioner Sikh community that SRO 425 dated 10th October 2017 was ultra vires.