‘Can turn the clock back’: SC declines to stay bifurcation of J&K into 2 UTs
A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to stop the Centre from carving out two centrally-administered union territories (UTs) out of Jammu and Kashmir, telling the petitioners who challenged the scrapping of Article 370 that the top court could always “turn the clock back”.
The constitution bench, which was set up last week by Justice NV Ramana, gave the Centre four weeks to respond to a bunch of petitions that challenged the move to scrap special status for Jammu and Kashmir. It will take up the case again on November 14.
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According to the government order, the state of Jammu and Kashmir would be split into two union territories on 31 October: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Senior lawyer Raju Ramachandran, who is representing one of the 10 petitioners, had asked the five-judge bench led by Justice NV Ramana to hold its hearing before this month-end or stop the government from carving out two UTs.
The judges, however, made it clear that this would not be possible since it had to give the state and central governments adequate time to respond. “The court can put the clock back… But it cannot hear such a matter without getting a response from the government,” the bench ruled, pointing out that when the hearing on merits begin, the petitioners would want to debate everything.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the court that the Centre needed four weeks to file its counter to the 10 new petitions filed against the abrogation of Article 370 since they raise different points.
The bench, which also comprises Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, was set up last week after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi underscored that he would be busy with the constitution bench that is hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute suit on a daily basis.
The Centre ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories. A day later, Parliament passed the changes in the form Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019.