"Case can't be reduced to 'emotional majority interpretation' of constitution,"

The Chief Justice of India has said that the Union government’s plan for restoring J&K’s statehood and conducting elections is not an adequate response to the constitutional issue, and that the matter must be handled with “independently” by the Constitution Bench.

The Supreme Court made it clear on Thursday, August 31st, in New Delhi, that the ongoing development projects in Jammu and Kashmir by the Central government beyond August 2019 would not be considered in the next constitutional case against the abrogation of Article 370.


According to the Constitution Bench led by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud, the Union government’s strategy for restoring J&K’s statehood and conducting elections is not an adequate response to the constitutional issue and must be dealt with “independently.”

The constitutional challenge “may not be relevant to the kind of development activities done beyond August 2019…. (and) cannot constitute a response to the constitutional challenge…. It’s possible that these details don’t even relate to the constitutional question,” the CJI said.

The Centre informed the Supreme Court on the 13th day of hearing that it cannot set any specific date for restoring statehood in J&K and that the Union government is ready for elections in the valley at any moment.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta began by arguing that the territory is continually improving by giving various facts, including the fact that around 1.88 crore visitors visited J&K in the previous year and the one crore mark has been reached so far for the year 2023.

Compared to 2018, Mehta claims that fewer terrorist-initiated incidents have occurred, infiltration has decreased by 90.2%, stone pelting has decreased by 97.2%, and security personnel casualties have decreased by 65.9%.

This is the kind of thing that government agencies would think about… There were 1,767 incidents of stone pelting in 2018, but none in 2019. There were 52 requests for coordinated rallies by separatist groups, but none in 2019, he said.

Attorney Kapil Sibal, arguing on behalf of a petitioner, said that the government’s evidence was completely irrelevant and wondered if the Constitution Bench would consider it.

He refuted the government’s numbers, claiming that they “will go into the mind of the court” and “trying to show as to how this enormous change (revocation of Article 370) has taken place for the benefit of the people of J&K.”

As Sibal put it, “if you have 5,000 people under house arrest and Section 144 throughout the state, there cannot be any bandhs (protests),” but he also noted that such details are neither “necessary” or “relevant” in deciding upon the constitutional reference.

Drug use among young people in J&K has reached an astonishing level recently. That is a zone I would rather not enter. He argued that the court did not need to know such details.

Sibal said that by broadcasting events live, the government’s statements became part of the official record. People see them as a public amenity and appreciate the government’s initiative. “This is a problem,” he said.

SG Mehta chimed in at this point to insist that “progress never creates a problem.”

There were no bandhs, he went on to say, since “on the bright side,” some individuals were under house arrest. That’s good news since it implies the proper individuals were imprisoned.

The comments from the country’s second-highest law official fueled Sibal’s fire.

Let us not create a farce of our democratic process. There were a total of 5,000 persons throughout the state under house arrest or Section 144 restrictions. That’s been acknowledged by this court in a ruling. How could there be bandhs when the Internet was cut off and people were prevented from seeking medical attention? Let’s not go into it,” he finally remarked.

The Constitution Bench’s calming words, “constitutional challenge will be considered on constitutional grounds and not on the basis of the policy decisions,” helped defuse the heated debate.

Before the Supreme Court today, the Central government reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir’s Union Territory status is only temporary and that it would take “some time” to restore statehood.

Mehta reaffirmed what he said previously: that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said on the floor of Parliament that Jammu and Kashmir will once again become a state if the situation there normalised.

He assured the public that the federal government is prepared to hold elections whenever the State Election Commission and the Election Commission of India deem it necessary.

The Constitution Bench requested on Tuesday that the Attorney General and Solicitor General inquire with the Central Government on the timeline for restoring Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood. On that day, the Centre said that the “Union Territory is not a permanent feature” and that it will make a favourable remark about Jammu and Kashmir in front of the court on August 31.

At the time of the hearing, the Supreme Court had made clear that the former state could not become a “Union Territory in permanence,” and that restoring democracy there was a major priority.

According to Mehta, Ladakh will remain a Union Territory indefinitely.

Several petitions challenging the 2019 Presidential Order dividing the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories have been heard by a 5-judge Constitution Bench.



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