The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has held that there are no reasons or grounds are forthcoming for enabling and supporting considerations of administrative efficiency, legal justification or Constitutional basis for effectingthe ‘Darbar Move’, reports legal news website LiveLaw.in.
Though the bench of Chief Justice Gitta Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal has enumerated number of reasons against the move, finally the Bench has directed the Constitutional authorities to take the final call.
Darbar Move is a 148 Year-old practice where the Jammu and Kashmir government functions for six months each in the two capitals, Srinagar and Jammu.
"We have also noted above 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 the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, the larger interest of its people and the mandate of the Constitution of India,” the court said.
After a marathon hearing the Court has reached the following conclusions:
I. No reasons or grounds are forthcoming for enabling and supporting considerations of administrative efficiency, legal justification or Constitutional basis for effecting the Darbar Moves.
II. 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.
III. For a period of almost six weeks annually, the entire governance and administration in the Union Territory 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.
IV. 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. This justification of the Darbar Move has lost all relevance.
V. 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 kms between Jammu and Srinagar and vice-vice twice a year. This practice may have the consequence of imperilling State and National security.
VI. On account of technological advancements and availability of electronic modes, maintenance of record and communication, there is no need for physical conveyance of assets.
VII. Information technology integrates disjoint units into single units virtually. Therefore, even if the Secretariat and Departments were divided and placed at different locations, they could be virtually unified into a single Secretariat with minimal movement of human resources.
VIII. 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.
IX. 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. This has an exponentially negative impact on 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.
X. The administrative requirement of the biannual shifting of the employees year after year as part of their conditions of service to effectuate the Darbar Move is manifestly arbitrary and is hit by Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
XI. The Darbar Move places a huge burden on the police, security forces in the Union Territory. Security provisions relatable to the Darbar Move are also at a phenomenal undesirable cost (of both financial and manpower), to the Nation and to the public exchequer which ought not be countenanced in public interest.
XII. Right to life, education, health, good environment are amongst the several essential concomitants of the right to life guaranteed to the people of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Union Territory is unable to provide to all its people even basic essentials including those of education and healthcare, judicial infrastructure resulting in violation of the right to life of the people. Valuable resources of the state - financial and physical - cannot be diverted to completely non-essential usage.
XIII. There is unwarranted disruption of movement of traffic and personnel on the National Highway for four days on each Darbar Move adversely impacting public interest.
XIV. Jammu and Kashmir already suffers from high fiscal deficit and the expenditure on the Darbar Move is an unwarranted burden on the depleted resources of the Union Territory. The Darbar Move is an unwarranted drain on the public exchequer and the tax payers hard earned contributions.
XV. The expenditure involved is in the nature of misutilisation of valuable public resources which are urgently required for public purposes, say for instance, the imperative and pressing needs of upgrading public health facilities, and upgrading all health installations. A large financial outlay is required to meet the immediate needs to address COVID-19 issues including health, infrastructure, transportation, technology, security, social welfare, unemployment, food to name just a few.