The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a batch of nearly 23 petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution on July 11. Article 370 granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The five-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice Chandrachud and including Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant, will be considering these pleas. The decision comes almost four years after the reconstitution of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh on August 5, 2019.
Issues involved in the petitions
The petitions challenge the Presidential Orders of August 5-6, 2019, and The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
The August 5 order, titled Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, superseded the 1954 Presidential Order that introduced Article 35A, granting the state of J&K the power to define permanent residents and create special laws for them. This order stated that the provisions of the Indian Constitution would apply to J&K and redefined references to the Sadr-i-Riyasat and the Government of J&K as references to the J&K Governor acting on the advice of his Council of Ministers. Additionally, any reference to the Constituent Assembly of J&K would be construed as a reference to its Legislative Assembly.
The August 6 order revoked the special status granted to J&K under Article 370, and the J&K Reorganisation Act of 2019 divided the state into two Union Territories, which are also being challenged.
Some of the petitions also question the constitutional validity of Articles 370 and 35A.
Status of the petitions
Last year, on April 25 and September 23, a Constitution Bench headed by the then CJI NV Ramana had agreed to list the pleas for hearing after they were referred by erstwhile CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
However, a new five-judge bench will now have to be formed to hear the pleas since ex-CJI Ramana and Justice R Subhash Reddy, who were part of the earlier Constitution Bench, have retired. Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant, who are currently part of the five-judge bench, declined to refer the matter to a larger seven-judge bench.
Some petitioners argue that due to conflicting opinions in two SC decisions delivered by five-judge benches on Article 370’s nature and extent in its 1959 and 1970 rulings, a seven-judge Bench must consider the issue anew.