Two months have passed since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 was abolished but the Supreme Court has so far not intervened in the Centre’s decision, which has been challenged by some people in the top court.
The issue of the constitutional validity of the government decision is now before a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Justice N.V. Ramana, which was set up on October 1 to look into the matter.
Around 12 petitions with different averments will be heard on November 14, by when the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir have to file their responses and place before the top court all documents related to its decision to remove the special status.
The top court turned down petitioners’ request to order status quo in Jammu and Kashmir, which has virtually cleared the way of bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir in two separate Union Territories on October 31, as per new legislation. However, it will depend on the court’s decision whether the status remained to continue or not.
Noting the crucial nature of the matter, the top court has not shown any hurry in examining the pleas, first of which was filed on August 6.
The central government had moved to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 and the very next day advocate M.L. Sharma knocked at the door of the apex court, challenging the decision.
Subsequently, during the hearing, the top court pulled him up for filing defective petitions and made it clear that his plea is being entertained on the merit of other applications.
A few days later, National Conference leader Mohammad Akbar Lone moved the top court citing ‘Swaraj’ or self-governance and said the right to autonomous self-government within a federal framework is an essential fundamental right.
These valuable rights have been taken away without the “procedure established by law” in a manner that violates every canon of Constitutional morality, Lone contended.
He said Article 370 was extensively considered and carefully drafted in order to ensure peaceful and democratic accession of the formerly princely state of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union, drawing out the significance of Article 370, which defines and regulates the relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union of India.
After him, various others, including IAS officer-turned-politician Shah Faesal, Sajjad Lone-led Peoples Conference, CPI-M leader Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, Kashmiri artist Inder Salim alias Inderji Tickoo, retired military officers and bureaucrats joined him and challenged Presidential orders on Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, which caught the attention of apex court.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on September 28 set up a five-judge Constitution Bench of justices N.V. Ramana, S.K. Kaul, R.Subhash Reddy, B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant to examine pleas challenging the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Besides the Constitution bench, a three-judge bench has been set up to hear miscellaneous pleas seeking relaxation and other reliefs in the Jammu and Kashmir.
Around seven pleas are being heard by the top court challenging detention and seeking relaxation in the J&K.
However, the Centre and J&K administration have said that restrictions are being lifted step-by-step to save the valley from the extremely volatile condition because the threat to common citizens from terror outfits continue to prevail.
These pleas will be heard by a three-judge bench of Justices N.V Ramana, B.R. Gavai and R. Subhash Reddy on October 16.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury has challenged the detention of his party colleague Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, whereas wife of Malaysia-based NRI businessman Asifa Mubeen has challenged his husband detention.
The court is also hearing pleas of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin, seeking relaxation while child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly has challenged the detention of minors in the valley.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has denied detention of any minor illegally and said out of 144 minors held during the lockdown, 142 were out on bail.
In an affidavit filed in the top court on a batch of petitions questioning curbs, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has said that restrictions have been eased, 100 per cent landlines service have been restored and Section 144 of CrPC, which bars unlawful assembly at a place, has been withdrawn in all the police stations
The restrictions had been imposed on August 4, a day ahead of the Central government moving a resolution in Parliament to scrap special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370.