Art 370: SC To Decide On Monday If Pleas Should Be Heard By Larger Bench

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Supreme Court of India – File Pic

NEW DELHI – A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will pronounce on Monday its order on whether petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 be referred to a larger bench.

The petitions are heard by a five-judge bench presided by Justice NV Ramana and comprising Justices SK Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant.

The Constitution bench had reserved the order on a batch of petitions on January 23.

During the hearing of the case last month, the Central government had said that the abrogation of Article 370 allowed the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union and added that the move is “irreversible”.

However, a few petitioners had raised the reference to a larger bench on the basis of the judgements passed by the Apex court in the cases of Prem Nath Kaul (1959) and Sampath Prakash(1968).

Senior counsel Dinesh Dwivedi had pointed out that the two earlier SC judgments are at loggerheads with regard to the scope and intent of Article 370. Dwivedi argued that the court refer the issue to a bench of seven or more judges since the earlier judgments were delivered by benches of five judges.

In Sampat Prakash judgement, the Supreme Court held that article 370 will cease to be operative only if the President issues a direction to that effect on a recommendation made by the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir.

In Prem Nath Kaul verdict, the Supreme Court ruled that plenary powers of the ruler of Kashmir were not limited by Article 370. The temporary provisions of Article 370, the court ruled, were based on the assumption that the ultimate relationship between India and Jammu & Kashmir would be finally determined by the Constituent Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir.

Advocate Dr Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the petitioners had said that the Centre deliberately imposed the President’s rule in the erstwhile state and downgraded its status to a Union Territory using Article 3 of the Constitution of India.

Several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Central government’s decision of withdrawing Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Among those who have challenged the abrogation of Article 370 by Modi led government are individuals, lawyers, activists and political parties like National Conference, J&K Peoples Conference and CPI (M) and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM)

Lok Sabha MPs Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi filed plea on party’s behalf. In 2015, Justice (retd) Masoodi had ruled that Article 370 was a permanent feature of the Constitution.

Professor Radha Kumar, a former Kashmir interlocutor and IAS turned politician Shah Faesal also moved petition challenging the government’s move.

On August 5, the Central government scrapped the Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which conferred special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Fearing backlash, the government imposed strict curfew across the erstwhile state and detained thousands of people, including mainstream politicians and separatists. Among the prominent politicians were three-time former chief Minister and Member Parliament Dr Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti. (With inputs from agencies)

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