New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to entertain a petition filed by the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) challenging the President’s Rule imposed in the state and abrogation of provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the state. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer tagged the petition filed by JKPC along with petitions which have been referred to a five-judge Constitution bench for examining the legal validity of the Presidential order on abrogation of Article 370 from the state.
However, the bench declined to entertain other fresh petitions on the issue of scrapping of Article 370. The bench said it is not going to multiply the petitions on the issue of Article 370. It said people who want to argue on the issue can file impleadment application.
“We are examining the validity of the legislative action,” the bench said while referring to several petitions which have been referred to the Constitution bench and fixed for hearing in first week of October. When the counsel appearing for the JKPC pleaded for entertaining its petition, the bench said, “you should have come to this court earlier”.
While challenging the Centre’s decisions to scrap provisions of the Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and dividing it into two Union Territories, the JKPC has sought a direction to declare the state reorganization act and the presidential orders as “unconstitutional and void”. The party has said the state has been under President’s Rule under Article 356 of the Constitution since June 2018, and routine decisions of the state government are taken by the governor, who himself is a delegate of the president under the presidential proclamation issued under Article 356 (1)(a).
The JKPC is the second party after the National Conference (NC) which has mounted a legal challenge in the apex court to the changes made in the Constitutional status of the state. The NC petition has been filed by Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi, both Lok Sabha members belonging to the party. Mohammad Akbar Lone is a former Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Masoodi is a retired judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Massodi had ruled in 2015 that the Article 370 was a permanent feature of the Constitution.
The JKPC, in its plea, also submitted that the Jammu and Kashmir governor has kept the entire nation in the dark. The country was not informed that such a drastic action against the interest of the state was being taken, it submitted. The party also challenged the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act passed by Parliament and said, “The entire state particularly the valley was put under curfew and then only those CO’s were passed and the impugned legislation was enacted”.
“Never ever in the history of the nation reorganization under Article 3 has taken place which shows a blatant attack on our Constitution and the freedom of people of a state,” it submitted. The party said Jammu and Kashmir had a separate Constitution and Parliament had a limited scope to enact legislation for the state. Therefore by a parliamentary act, the powers given to the state by its own Constitution could not have been abrogated by merely taking away Article 370 by the impugned legislation, it said. President Ram Nath Kovind on August 9 had gave assent to a legislation for bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, and two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — which will come into existence on October 31.
October 31 happens to be the birth anniversary of the country’s first home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was instrumental in the merger of about 565 princely states with the Union of India following Independence.