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Contractors Having Militant Relatives Can Participate in Govt Tenders, Rules High Court

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court ruled in favor of contractors previously delisted for having familial ties to militants and separatists, allowing them to participate in the tendering process, according to a report by The Hindu. This decision came after multiple petitions were filed by local contractors who had been denied the opportunity to participate in government tenders due to alleged familial connections to individuals involved in anti-national activities.

Justice Sanjeev Kumar, who presided over the case, quashed an order from the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj issued on March 15, 2023. The judge found the petitioners’ arguments compelling and directed that they be permitted to engage in the tendering process.

The court noted that the decision to bar the contractors was based solely on the involvement of their relatives in subversive activities dating back to the early 1990s or later. Importantly, the competent authority had not proposed to cancel or refuse to renew the contractors’ registration certificates.

Justice Kumar emphasized that this decision violated the petitioners’ fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, which ensures the freedom to practice any profession, and their right to livelihood under Article 21. He asserted that no authority could undermine these constitutional provisions in a democratic society governed by the rule of law.

The barring of these contractors was based on a report from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which indicated that their relatives had been involved in anti-national activities. However, many of these relatives had been deceased for decades, rendering the rationale behind the exclusion tenuous.

Justice Kumar also referenced the 2010 rehabilitation policy for former militants who crossed into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This policy was designed to reintegrate former militants who had renounced insurgent activities. He highlighted that the court could not ignore violations of fundamental rights, especially when those affected had tenuous connections to past insurgent activities.

The court found the communication from the commissioner/secretary to be unjustified, noting that some of the relatives involved had either died or had become law-abiding citizens. The judge ordered that a copy of the judgment be sent to the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir for departmental action against the concerned commissioner/secretary.

The Chief Secretary is required to submit a report on the action taken within two months, with the case scheduled for further hearing on July 29, 2024. Official figures indicate that over 212 people returned from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir between 2010 and 2012 under the rehabilitation policy, reflecting efforts to facilitate the return and reintegration of former militants.

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