New Delhi, September 23
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up after the Dasehra vacations petitions challenging the validity of nullification of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. The petitions have been hanging fire for almost three years.
“We will certainly list that,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit told senior advocate Prashanto Chandra Sen after he submitted on behalf of some of the petitioners that the matter needed to be listed for hearing after the Dasehra vacations.
When 25 five-judge Constitution Bench cases were notified for listing from August 29 after Justice Lalit took over as the CJI last month, petitions against nullification of Article 370 did not figure in the list.
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 2020, it had refused to refer it to a larger Bench of seven judges.
The petitions were originally referred to a Constitution Bench led by Justice NV Ramana in 2019 by the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi. Besides Justice Ramana, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant were part of the Bench.
Now, the five-judge Bench will have to be reconstituted in view of the retirement of Justice Reddy (on January 4, 2022) and CJI NV Raman (on August 27, 2022).
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 being 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.
Since then, delimitation exercise has been completed in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir and the number of seats increased from 83 to 90 (excluding 24 seats in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir).
There are around two dozen petitions challenging the Presidential Order nullifying Article 370, including those by Delhi-based advocate ML Sharma, J&K-based lawyer Shakir Shabir, NC MPs Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice Hasnain Masoodi (retd) among others.
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