Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 24
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads a Jammu and Kashmir outreach, around two dozen petitions challenging the validity of the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019--which divided the erstwhile state into two union territories—and nullification of Article 370 remain pending before the Supreme Court for almost two year.
The top court had on August 28, 2019, referred petitions challenging Presidential Orders nullifying Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories to a five-judge Constitution Bench. In March last year, it had refused to refer it to a larger Bench of seven judges.
The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which divided the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, has already been acted upon. The changes came into effect on October 31, 2019 after notified in the official gazette.
“The Supreme Court can always turn the clock back,” a five-judge Constitution Bench had said on October 1, 2020, when it took up the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019 and the August 5 Presidential Orders nullifying Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
There are around two dozen petitions challenging the Presidential Order nullifying Article 370, including those by Delhi-based advocate ML Sharma, Jammu and Kashmir-based lawyer Shakir Shabir, National Conference Lok Sabha MPs Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (Retd) Hasnain Masoodi, bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal and his party colleague Shehla Rashid.
There is another PIL filed by former interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir Radha Kumar, Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Kapil Kak, Major General (Retd) Ashok Mehta, and former IAS officers Hindal Haidar Tyabji, Amitabha Pande and Gopal Pillai who have urged the top court to declare the August 5 Presidential Orders be declared “unconstitutional, void and inoperative”.
The Sajad Gani Lone-led Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) had in November last year moved the Supreme Court demanding early hearing of petitions challenging the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution.
Referring to the “sweeping changes” introduced in Jammu & Kashmir by the Centre, the plea filed through JKPC spokesperson Adnan Ashraf, had submitted that such changes will have an irreparable impact on the rights of people of the erstwhile state.
This was the second such plea in the top court. Earlier, petitioner Shakir Shabir had demanded early hearing, expressing the apprehension that mere passage of time can render the abrogation of Article 370 permanent, making the petitions infructuous.
He had pointed out that since the promulgation of the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 amending Article 367 of the Constitution of India and abrogating Article 370 on August 5, 2019, several laws had been passed, effecting key changes in Jammu and Kashmir.
Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected the functioning of the Supreme Court that has been functioning in a restricted manner in virtual mode since March 2020. With apprehensions of a third wave of the pandemic looming large in the minds of health experts, government functionaries and the public in general, it’s difficult to hazard a guess as to normal functioning of the top court to enable it take up petitions challenging Presidential Orders nullifying Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two union territories.
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