Supreme Court adjourns Article 35A hearing to last week of August, Kashmir Valley tense
A three-judge bench will determine if pleas on validity of law should be heard by a Constitution bench.Updated: Aug 06, 2018 22:40 IST
The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned a scheduled hearing into a clutch of petitions questioning the constitutional validity of Article 35A and said a three-judge bench needs to determine whether the matter should be heard by a five-judge Constitution bench.
Article 35A of the Indian Constitution prohibits non-permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) from acquiring immovable property, government jobs, scholarships and aid in the state, among other related provisions.
The matter was deferred on Monday by a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar after both the Centre and the Jammu & Kashmir government, which is under Governor’s Rule since June 20 after the fall of the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party (PDP-BJP) coalition government, asked for the matter to be taken up later because of upcoming municipal elections in the state.
“Let it be listed before a three-judge bench in the week commencing August 27 to determine whether it should be heard by a Constitution bench or not,” the court ordered.
“Today there are only two judges. These petitions challenge a 60-year-old provision of the Constitution. Only a Constitution bench can hear it. But the reference cannot be made by us. Only one thing is to be heard whether Article 35A goes against the basic structure or doctrine of the Constitution. No other argument can be made,” CJI Misra said. Justice DY Chandrachud, the third member of the bench, was absent.
Attorney general KK Venugopal submitted to the court that the situation in the state was sensitive.“The three interlocutors are carrying out dialogue and also panchayat elections are due. The situation is sensitive, as you saw it on television. So please adjourn it,” Venugopal said, referring to the shutdown in the Valley called by separatist leaders on Saturday and Sunday to protest against the hearing.
Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing J&K, made a similar plea.
Four petitions, three clubbed with the main plea filed by non-government organisation We The Citizens, have challenged the legality of the law on the grounds that it was implemented on the President’s orders in 1954 without being presented before Parliament.
Much of Kashmir valley remained shut down despite the Supreme Court adjourning the matter.
On Monday, attendance was thin in government offices and police and paramilitary forces were deployed in full strength to avoid and law and order situation.
“Deferment of the case by a few weeks is an indication about the intentions of the court which entertained these mischievous petitions backed by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), as part of RSS’s well known agenda on J&K,” Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a statement.
Former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the deferment of the hearing was no solution. ‘’It has brought interim relief to the people of J&K. But with uncertainty looming over its status, it has unleashed a wave of anxiety and panic amongst the people of J&K,” she tweeted.
The National Conference vice president and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah said the state’s future lies within the Constitution. ‘’Kashmir has shut down to protect a provision of the Indian Constitution. When was the last time anyone was able to frame that headline? #Article35A,” Abdullah said in a tweet.