Following bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and its downsizing to two union territories, lawyers in Jammu have launched an indefinite strike. Tuesday marked the fifth day of this strike, which is headed by Jammu Bar Association President and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Abhinav Sharma.
The agitation was called by the lawyers over the former governor Satya Pal Malik’s October 22 order that sanctioned the creation of a new ‘Department of Registration’ under the Registration Act, 1908 for registering documents dealing with immovable properties. Following this order, the registration powers have been shifted to the Revenue Department instead of judiciary.
Ahead of the strike, a general house meeting was conducted by Sharma against the government’s decision to divest judicial magistrate powers of registration of documents, including sales deeds, lease deeds, mortgage deeds, gift deeds and others, etc.
This means that the paperwork for the registration of documents will be done by the Revenue Department, affecting lawyers’ earning and leaving virtually hundreds of lawyers jobless.
The protesting lawyers claimed that this change will result in multiplicity of litigation, nepotism, favouritism causing general public inconvenience as well as to the lawyers.
Speaking to NewsClick, Sharma said, “The powers of judicial magistrate have been shifted to the Revenue Department [officials], who are not possessed with judicial acumen and are not well versed with intricacies of law. There will be no transparency and more cases of nepotism will arise. Moreover, majority of lawyers are dependent on registration and this will deprive them of their sustenance.”
While Sharma, who is also the BJP spokesperson, has claimed that the agitation and demands have nothing to do with the revocation of Article 370, other lawyers joining the agitation have something else to say.
In an official press release by the J&K High Court Bar Association, Jammu, it was mentioned, “The J&K High Court Bar Association, Jammu made it clear that the aforesaid demands have nothing to do with the revocation and abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India… and the proposal was moved before the revocation of Article 370… Moreover, the J&K High Court Bar Association, Jammu, supports the revocation of Article 370.”
Senior advocate B S Salathia, who was also part of the meeting ahead of the agitation, in his statement, which he also made public on social media platform Facebook, said, “The demands were supported by everyone in the meeting. However, there was no discussion or resolve of the members either to support or oppose the revocation of Article 370. But it mischievously finds mention in the official press release. With whose approval and why? To my understanding, it’s a game plan to please the political mentors and use us for their own vested interests—not in good taste. Please, be kind to us, as our elected leaders, we shall make every possible sacrifice to achieve the goal and uphold the prestige/glory of the Association. Kindly, read the relevant portion of the Press Release. Can any member present in the meeting justify. Please, comment. To me, it appears as an official attempt, possibly a deliberate, to fizzle out well thoughtful unilaterally announced indefinite strike. Be aware.”
There is another crucial demand raised by the lawyers. The demand has to do with the shifting of the High Court Complex from Janipur, Jammu to Raika. The lawyers claimed that the shifting of the High Court would further “delay and prolong the disposal of already pending cases for decades together, apart from causing serious loss to the public exchequer.”
“The high court, existing now, is sufficient enough to cater to people’s requirements,” Sharma said.
Another lawyer told NewsClick, “As far as the proposed site Raika is concerned, it is opposed by all the members, as—besides affecting the lawyers—it will lead to deforestation. The shifting of HC requires cutting of thousands of trees on the proposed site which is considered the only lung area of the Jammu city. It will also cause inconvenience to the lawyers, as many advocates are practising in J&K High court, district courts and subordinate courts.”