Accepts Centre’s stand; no need to refer 370 to larger Bench: SC
New Delhi, Mar 2:
The Supreme Court Monday declined to refer the petitions challenging the
abrogation of Article 370 to seven-judge bench.
The apex court
also accepted the Centre’s arguments in the limited aspect of reference and
held that there is no conflict in the earlier Supreme Court judgments of Sampat
Prakash and Prem Nath Kaul.
Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association
and an intervenor had challenged the constitutional validity of the Centre’s
decision of August 5 last year and sought referring the matter to a larger
bench, of either seven or nine judges.
constitution bench headed by Justice N V Ramana had on January 23 reserved its
order on this issue.
plea, the Centre had said that abrogation of provisions of Article 370, which
granted special status to erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, has become a
“fait accompli” leaving sole option to accept the change.
have sought reference to a larger bench on the ground that two judgments of
apex court – Prem Nath Kaul versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1959 and Sampat Prakash
versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1970 – which dealt with the issue of Article 370
are in direct conflict each other and therefore the current bench of five
judges could not hear the issue.
In Sampat Prakash
judgement, the Supreme Court had 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.
K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had told the five-judge bench that the
two earlier judgments were not related to each other and dealt with different
issues. The Centre had argued that the sovereignty of J&K enabled by
Article 370 was temporary.
At least 23
petitions have been filed in the apex court against stripping Jammu and Kashmir
of its special status and splitting it into two union territories – Jammu and
Kashmir and Ladakh.
to the abrogation of Article 370, a slew of petitions were also filed in the
court challenging the restrictions in the Kashmir valley which the petitioners
had argued were in violation of their fundamental right to speech and
expression and the right to move freely under Article 19 of the Constitution.
were heard separately by three-judge bench of the Supreme Court which on
January 10 held that restrictive orders suspending internet, telecommunication
and movement should be published by the government indicating the specific
reasons for imposing the restrictions and it should be proportional to the
concerns necessitating such suspension.