The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred a batch of petitions challenging the changes brought in the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 to a five-judge Constitution bench.
The apex court issued notices to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a batch of pleas challenging the presidential order by which Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was not in agreement with the Centre that there was no need for issuance of notice in the matter as Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta were marking their presence in the 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 would have a “cross-border repercussion”. The attorney general said whatever was being said by the court was sent before the United Nations (UN).
As the counsel appearing for both sides were involved in arguments and counter-arguments, the bench said, “We know what to do, we have passed the order, we are not going to change.” It also said all the matters would be listed for hearing in the first week of October.
The first petition challenging the presidential order scrapping Article 370 was filed by advocate M L Sharma, who was later joined by another lawyer from Jammu and Kashmir, Shakir Shabir.
National Conference (NC), a prominent political party from Jammu and Kashmir, filed a petition on August 10, contending that the changes brought in the status of the state had taken away the rights of its citizens without their mandate.
Arguing that the legislation approved by Parliament and the orders issued by the President subsequently were “unconstitutional”, the petition prayed for those to be declared as “void and inoperative”.
The petition was filed by Mohammad AKbar Lone and Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi, both Lok Sabha members of the NC. Lone is a former speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Masoodi is a retired judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, who ruled in 2015 that Article 370 was a permanent feature of the Constitution.
There are other petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370, including a plea filed by a group of former defence officers and bureaucrats, who have sought directions declaring the presidential orders of August 5 as “unconstitutional, void and inoperative”.
The plea was filed by professor Radha Kumar, a former member of the Home Ministry’s Group of Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir (2010-11), former IAS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre Hindal Haidar Tyabji, Air Vice Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak, Major General (retd) Ashok Kumar Mehta, former Punjab-cadre IAS officer Amitabha Pande and former Kerala-cadre IAS officer Gopal Pillai, who retired as the Union home secretary in 2011.
A petition has also been filed by bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal, along with his party colleague and former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) leader Shehla Rashid. There are other petitions challenging the Centre’s decision on Article 370.