SC refers Article 370 hearing to constitutional bench
28 August 2019
The Supreme Court (SC) referred a batch of petitions on Wednesday related to the abrogation of Article 370 to a five-judge Constitution Bench. The apex judicial body, while hearing a batch of pleas against the repeal of special status, also issued notices to the centre and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration.
The petitions have challenged the government's move to scrap special status of Jammu and Kashmir. While the National Conference and others have moved the SC, terming the government action as illegal and unconstitutional, the executive editor of Kashmir Times has asked for lifting of curbs on the media. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury has also petitioned the court for the production of his party’s leader and former MLA Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, who has been under detention.
“Let all the petitions on the Article 370 issue go to a five-judge Bench for hearing,” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, heading a three-judge Bench, said on Wednesday.
The CJI’s order came amid fervent prayers by the government, represented by Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, to exercise restraint as far as orders and oral observations were concerned on Jammu and Kashmir were concerned. Mr. Venugopal argued that the top court should exercise restraint as Article 370 issue had ‘international and cross-border implications’. The CJI indicated that the Constitution Bench may start hearing the matter from the beginning of October.
On Yechury’s plea, the apex court allowed the CPI(M) general secretary to visit J&K to meet Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami in the state. The CJI-led bench, however, directed Yechury to only meet Tarigami and not to use the visit for any political purpose. The bench also directed authorities to report in case Yechury indulged in any political activity while visiting J&K.
J&K has been under strict restrictions since the government announced its decision to abrogate Article 370, which accorded special rights and privileges to the people of the state, on August 5. The move to end the special status of the state was followed by the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh.
The petitioners challenging the government’s decision have claimed that under Article 370, any such order can be issued only when the decision has the assent of constituent assembly of J&K. In the absence of constituent assembly, the decision rests with the state assembly. The government has contended that as the state was under the President's rule, the powers of the state assembly have been automatically transferred to the Indian parliament and hence, President Ram Nath Kovind's orders abrogating Article 370 was valid.