Five-judge Supreme Court bench to hear petitions on Article 370 move
Chief justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Saturday set up a five-judge bench comprising justices N V Ramana, SK Kaul, R.Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant to hear the petitions challenging the legality of the government action, according to people in the court registry aware of the matter.Updated: Sep 28, 2019 23:15 IST
A five-judge Constitution bench will start hearing on October 1 petitions challenging a central government move to effectively revoke article 370, which guaranteed special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Chief justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Saturday set up a five-judge bench comprising justices N V Ramana, SK Kaul, R.Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant to hear the petitions challenging the legality of the government action, according to people in the court registry aware of the matter.
On August 5 and 6, Parliament approved provisions nullifying Article 370, which offered special status to J&K, and Article 35A, under which outsiders were barred from holding government jobs or owning property in Kashmir. The government also decided to bifurcate the state into two Union territories -- J&K and Ladakh -- in a move that would come into force on October 31.
Under Article 370 of the constitution, the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed complete autonomy and the state legislature was free to draft its own laws, except in the areas of communications, defence, finance and foreign affairs.
In the days and weeks after the government moves, a bunch of petitions were filed in the top court by political parties and individuals challenging the changes.
The National Conference (NC) filed a petition on August 10, contending that the changes had taken away the rights of its citizens without their mandate. Arguing that the legislation approved by Parliament and the orders issued by the president subsequently were “unconstitutional”, the petition asked for those to be declared “void and inoperative”.
The petition was filed by NC’s Lok Sabha MPs Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi, a retired judge of the Jammu and Kashmir high court who, in 2015, ruled that Article 370 was a permanent feature of the Constitution.
The petition asserts that the Narendra Modi government had changed the status of Jammu and Kashmir “irreversibly” without “the concurrence of the people of the State acting through their elected representatives” (J&K assembly) and therefore amounted to “an overnight abrogation of the democratic rights and freedoms guaranteed to the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir upon its accession.”
Another set of petitions have been filed by a group of retired military officers and bureaucrats, including former home secretary GK Pillai and advocate M L Sharma questioning the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s decisions.
One more petition said the centre’s move was unconstitutional and violative of fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, and sought the quashing of presidential orders and declaration of the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Act 2019 as unconstitutional, void, and inoperative.
The petition also asserted that the Indian Constitution does not permit Parliament to retrogressively downgrade statehood into a less representative form such as a Union territory.
On August 28, despite opposition from the centre, the court had issued a notice to and sought the centre’s reply to the petitions that have been filed. Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said a notice would have “cross-border repercussions, ” and was liable to be misused. Mehta alluded to the possibility of politicians using the court notice to target the government.
“Anything that happens on this issue is projected by other political leaders,” said Mehta, the second highest legal officer, next only to the attorney general.
Tension has simmered in Jammu and Kashmir since the day article 370 was revoked, and the Centre, in a preventive measure, suspended phone connections and clamped restrictions on pubic movement. The government also detained hundreds of political activists, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
Supreme Court advocate Viplav Sharma said the move to hold hearings on the petitions will clear the suspense surrounding the constitutionality of the government’s decisions. “It will also help bring quietus to the matters surrounding Kashmir and also stabilize the situation in the state, “said Sharma.
The CJI has also decided to set up a three-judge bench to hear death penalty cases in the Supreme Court. Two two-judge benches dedicated to hearing tax matters have also been set up, but the composition of the benches is not known.
First Published: Sep 28, 2019 23:02 IST