Press Trust of India

Pleas challenging abrogation of Art 370: SC to conduct day-to-day hearing from August 2

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday said it will commence day-to-day hearing from August 2 on a batch of petitions challenging abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution that bestowed special status on the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, which passed several procedural directions, fixed July 27 as the deadline for filing of written submissions and convenience compilations by different parties.

The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai and Surya Kant said hearing on the clutch of petitions will be held on a day-to-day basis except on Mondays and Fridays, which are days for hearing miscellaneous matters in the apex court. Only fresh petitions are taken up on these days for admission hearing and regular matters are not heard.

It appointed two lawyers — one each from the petitioner’s and the government side — to prepare convenience compilation and file it before July 27, and made it clear that after the said date no documents will be accepted. A convenience note gives the court a snapshot of the entire case to assist it in quickly appreciating the facts.

The five-judge bench said that Centre’s affidavit filed on Monday with regard to the conditions prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir after the August 5, 2019 notification will have no bearing on the constitutional issue to be adjudicated by the five-judge bench.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is leading the petitioners challenging the constitutional validity of abrogation of Article 370, said two petitioners — IAS officer Shah Faesal and Shehla Rashid Shora — have filed an application for withdrawal of their names from the list of petitioners.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said he has no difficulty if anyone wishes to withdraw his or her name from the list of petitioners.

The bench then allowed Shah and activist Shora to delete their names from the list of the petitioners.

At the fag end of the hearing, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said Shah Faesal’s withdrawal from the list of petitioners will create a problem as far as the case title is concerned since he was the lead petitioner.

Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, who has also filed a petition contesting the abrogation, said his was the first case which came before the court and notice was issued on it, but the cause list shows his name in between the cases filed by other petitioners including some NGOs.

The bench then said it will be appropriate for the present case to be titled as ‘In Re: Article 370 of the Constitution’ and this will not create any problem for any party to the matter.

The counsel appearing for different groups accepted the suggestion put forth by the bench.

On August 5, 2019, the Centre decided to strip the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and bifurcate it into two union territories.

Several petitions challenging the Centre’s action of abrogating the provisions of Article 370 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which split the erstwhile state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh- were referred to a Constitution bench in 2019.

By abrogating Article 370, the central government had revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

On Monday, while defending the repeal of Article 370, the Centre told the top court that the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed an “unprecedented” era of peace, progress and prosperity, with street violence, orchestrated by terrorists and secessionist networks, becoming “a thing of the past”.

Referring to the “characteristic security situation” in the region, the Centre said organised stone pelting incidents connected with terrorism-separatist agenda, which were as high as 1,767 in 2018, has come down to zero in 2023 till date, and casualty of security personnel has shown a 65.9 per cent decline in 2022 as compared to 2018.

The Centre contended that the “historic constitutional step” being challenged has brought unprecedented development, progress, security and stability to the region, which was often missing during the old Article 370 regime.

It is submitted that the same has been possible due to the policy of the Union of India of ensuring peace, prosperity and progress in the region, the affidavit said.

“It is submitted that the hosting of G-20 Tourism Working Group meeting at Srinagar in the month of May 2023, was a watershed event in the history of valley tourism and the country proudly displayed its resolute commitment to the world that secessionist terrorist region can be converted into a region where even international dignitaries can be invited and global events can be held,” it added.

The government said after the historic changes, the UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh have witnessed profound “ameliorative, affirmative and progressive changes in last four years encompassing its entire governance – including the developmental activities, public administration and security matters which has positively impacted every resident irrespective of caste, creed or religion”.

It said ‘bandhs’ and stone pelting, engineered, financed and forced by the separatist-terrorist networks, had tremendous negative ripple effect on economy and the society as a whole.

“It is submitted that the defining characteristic of the security situation in the region, which has a direct bearing on the day-to-day life of common citizens is ‘street violence’ which was a methodical and regular phenomenon. The street violence, engineered and orchestrated by terrorists and secessionist networks has now become thing of the past.

“The organized stone pelting incidents connected with terrorism-separatist agenda, which were as high as 1,767 in the year 2018 has come down to zero in the year 2023 till date,” the Centre asserted in its 20-page affidavit.

It added that ‘bandhs’ and stone pelting had resulted in intermittent closure of schools, colleges and universities, trade, industries and businesses on a regular basis, leading to severe loss of income, especially of the poor and those who worked in unorganised sectors.

Press Trust of India

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