New Delhi:Petitions related to the abrogation of Article 370 will be heard by a five-judge Constitution Bench in October, the Supreme Court said today while hearing pleas against the repeal of special status in J&K. The top court also issued notices to the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir administration on the pleas. “We know what to do, we have passed the order, we are not going to change,” the bench said, as the Centre contended that there was no need for issuance of notice in the matter as Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General were present in court.
The Supreme Court also allowed CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury to visit Jammu and Kashmir to meet his party colleague and former MLA Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami in the state. The CJI-led bench, however, directed Yechury to only meet Tarigami and not use the visit for any political purpose. The bench said if Yechury indulges in any political activities, authorities are free to report them to the apex court.
“We will refer the matter to a five-judge Constitution bench”, the bench also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer said while not accepting the arguments that the issuance of notice will have a “cross-border repercussion”. The Attorney General said whatever is being said by this court is sent before the United Nations. As the counsel appearing for both sides were involved in arguments and counter-arguments, the bench said.
The pleas before the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi included a habeas corpus petition by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, in which he challenged the detention of Kashmir politician and party general secretary Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami. Another plea is of Tehseen Poonawalla, a social activist, who has raised the issue of lockdown in the region as amounting to suspension of Article 19 (freedom of speech) and 21 (personal liberty) of the Constitution.
The plea said, “The actions taken by Union of India pertains to gross abuse of its powers under law, whereby the people of J&K are suffering on account of unwarranted imposition of undeclared curfew and further emergency-like restrictions are being imposed under the garb of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.”
Another petition filed by National Conference leader Mohammad Akbar Lone, who has cited ‘Swaraj’ or self-governance, 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.
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 J&K and the Union of India.
Shah Faesal, an independent politician and former bureaucrat from Jammu and Kashmir in a joint petition with activist Shehla Rashid has challenged the Centre’s move to scrap Article 370.
The bench will also hear Kashmiri artist Inder Salim alias Inder Ji Tickoo and a veteran journalist Satish Jacob’s joint plea challenging recent Presidential orders on Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
Another petition is of six retired military officers and bureaucrats who had challenged the decision to revoke Article 370.
Other petitioners include advocate M.L. Sharma, Shakir Shabir and Soyaib Qureshi. A plea of Executive Editor of Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin seeking direction to relax movement of media personnel as well as photojournalists for free reporting on the situation will also be heard on Wednesday.
Another plea is of a law graduate in Delhi, Mohammad Aleem Syed, seeking information on the whereabouts of his family in Kashmir.
The government’s move to announce a package for Jammu Kashmir comes after Tuesday’s inter-ministerial meeting in the Home Ministry over the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 that discussed implementation of Central schemes in the state and the steps taken so far for return to normalcy in Kashmir Valley.
The cabinet meeting is likely to spell out moves on the promise of jobs, investment and the implementation of welfare schemes.
Tuesday’s Home Ministry meeting, chaired by newly-appointed Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, saw the attendance of more than 15 secretaries of Central government departments, including finance, agriculture, rural development, industries. Bhalla assessed the roadmap for implementation of Central schemes in the two newly-created Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh without one — before they come into existence on October 31.
Some Central government officials have visited Srinagar while more senior officials are expected to visit the Valley in the coming weeks.
The Central government will also assist the Jammu and Kashmir administration in implementing the 85 development schemes announced by Governor Satya Pal Malik.