Aqib Ahmad

Srinagar, May 05 (GNS): J&K High Court on Tuesday asked centre and J&K government to take “considered decision” on the continuation “Darbar Move”, observing that there was no “legal justification or Constitutional basis” besides reasons for “administrative efficiency” for continuing with the 148-year-old practice.  

In this regard a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal directed Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Chief Secretary of J&K to place its judgment before the “competent authorities for examining the issues raised and taking a considered decision thereon.”

In the 93-page judgment, the division bench questioned whether any Government can afford the annual expenditure of at least Rs.200 crores to sustain and perpetuate an arrangement of bi-annual shifting of its Capital two times a year.

“More so is this acceptable in a hopelessly fiscally deprived UT with severe underdevelopment and people deprived of bare basics which are an essential part of their fundamental right of life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the court asked.  

“In this judgment, we have recorded our reasons and judgment on the several aspects which arise on account of the implementation of the Darbar Move… including Constitutional and legal implications and consequences thereof, taking into consideration the provisions of the Constitution of India and binding judicial precedents of the Supreme Court of India,” the court said as per Global News Service.

“We have also noted the limitations on the extent of our jurisdiction whereby we stand precluded from making a declaration on the permissibility or the continuation of the practice of the Darbar Move,” We defer this task to the best wisdom of those on whom the Constitution of India bestows this solemn duty keeping in view, the interest of Jammu and Kashmir, the larger interest of its people and the mandate of the Constitution of India.”

The court said 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.”

For a period of almost six weeks annually, the entire governance and administration comes to a “grinding halt” creating a governance deficit.

“The sensitivity of the issues with which the Union Territory Government is engaged can ill afford this gap in governance. This is glaringly opposed to every element of public interest.”

Given the modern weather control mechanisms, clearly the consideration of extremities of weather, which was the case, reason and basis for the Darbar Move, does not hold weight today, it said. “This justification of the Darbar Move has lost all relevance.”

The court said valuable documents and resources in the nature of important and sensitive government documents are put to tremendous risk in the process of transportation as they are packed in trunks and carried in hired trucks over a distance of 300 kilometers “This practice may have the consequence of imperiling State and National security,” the court said.

 On account of technological advancements and availability of electronic modes, the court said that for the maintenance of record and communication “there is no need for physical conveyance of assets.”

“In view of the large scale logistics involved today, the economic burden of the Darbar Move is not justified by the original considerations of the weather.”

Thousands of government employees are compelled to live apart from their families for six months at a time resulting in physical and emotional pressure not only on the employees but spouses, parents, children and dependants, it said. “This has an exponentially negative impact on the emotional health of the employees and their families and would contribute to dejection and lack of interest in assigned tasks of the Darbar Move employees.”

The court also recorded several other “conclusions” for the need for discontinuing the practice including “unwarranted disruption of the movement of traffic and personnel Highway for four days on each Darbar Move, “high fiscal deficit and the expenditure” and “wastage of tremendous amount of time, efforts and energy on inefficient and unnecessary activity”.

“No reason or justification at all is available for requiring the judiciary to shift with the Darbar Move. The same negatively impact justice dispensation and impedes judicial administration,” it said.

In case the practice was rationalized, the court said, the amount of money, resources and time which could be saved, could be utilised towards the welfare and development of the J&K “which has otherwise witnessed much turmoil.”

“The financial saving and resources could be utilised for contributing towards the protection and propagation of its inherent culture and heritage of the communities. It could also be used for facilitating expenditure on the COVID-19 related issues including those of food shortages, unemployment and healthcare amongst others.” (GNS)

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