No timeline for restoring statehood of Jammu and Kashmir: Centre to SC
Mehta repeated that the initiatives taken by the Centre to restore stability in the region are progressing and statehood would be restored based on when there is normalcy in the state
The union government informed the Supreme Court on Thursday that while the union territory status of Jammu and Kashmir is temporary, it could not provide a timeline for restoring its statehood.
Appearing for the union government, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said, “I am unable to give an exact time period for statehood, but the UT status is temporary.”
The Supreme Court Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud is hearing a clutch of more than 20 pleas challenging the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August 2019, which eventually led to the bifurcation of J&K into two union territories. The bench also comprises Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
Mehta repeated that the initiatives taken by the Centre to restore stability in the region are progressing and statehood would be restored based on when there is normalcy in the state.
SG declared that terrorist induced incidents have reduced by 42.5 per cent as compared to the pre-2019 situation. Infiltration has reportedly reduced by 90.20 per cent. Law and order situations have reduced by 92 per cent and casualties of security persons have reduced by 69.5 per cent.
As the Supreme Court had asked Mehta to give the timeline for election in the earlier hearing, Mehta claimed that the union government was ready to hold elections in the state anytime. “Until now, the voters list was being updated, which is substantially over. Some parts are remaining and that the Election Commission is doing it. Once it is done, the State Election Commission and the Election Commission of India will decide on a date for elections,” said Mehta.
Mehta said actions to restore the statehood of J&K have been initiated. “In 2018, the stone pelting was 1767. It is nil (now), not just because of effective policing and security personnel but because of various steps such as gainfully employing the youth. They were misled by secessionist forces. In 2018, organised bandhs were 52- they are nil now,” said Mehta.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for the petitioners, opposed the statistics provided by the Centre on the status of normalcy in the valley. “They are trying to show how this enormous change has taken place. If you have 5,000 people under house arrest and 144 throughout the state, there can be no bandh! My request is please do not enter into the arena because we would have to counter it with all kinds of facts,” underscored Sibal.
Then the CJI clarified that the facts presented by the Centre would have no bearing on the constitutional issues being argued.
Then the CJI said, “To be fair to the Solicitor General, what he was saying is that the roadmap to full statehood would take time but right now development work is taking place, some stability has to come, this is not permanent. These are matters where there can be and should be policy differences but that
cannot affect the constitutional arguments. We place these facts in the perspective of the roadmap to statehood. This is not a justification and cannot be to constitutional challenge. Therefore, we didn’t even place the additional affidavit on record as well.”
Mehta claimed that for the first time, the three tier panchayat raj system has been introduced. “The first elections would be for panchayats. District Development Council elections have already taken place....Leh elections are over. The elections for the Kargil Hill Development Council would be for the end of the month. The process is on.
On Tuesday, Chandrachud had asked the union government to provide a roadmap for the restoration of statehood of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). SC had pointed out that there was a need to restore democracy in J&K as it was functioning without an elected government since 2018.
“Can you convert a state into a UT? And can a UT be carved out of a state. When are elections going to be held? This has to come to an end. Give us the specific time frame as to when will you restore actual democracy. We want to record this,” the apex court had observed.
Responding, Mehta had affirmed that the Centre is likely to provide a timeframe for the restoration of J&K on Thursday. Mehta said he would make a "positive statement" on Thursday after Chandrachud asked him to take instructions from the government and return with a timeframe for restoring the statehood.
"I have taken instructions. The instructions are that Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is not a permanent feature. I will make a positive statement the day after tomorrow. Ladakh will remain a UT," Mehta had told the court.
What is the court hearing?
The court is examining whether Parliament could have scrapped Article 370 without the consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and whether its bifurcation into two Union territories was constitutional.
The petitions have argued that scrapping of Article 370 after the imposition of President's Rule through a presidential proclamation is a violation of the democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The President’s Rule was imposed in the state after BJP pulled out of the ruling alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party in June 2018.
The hearing in the case had begun in December 2019, four months after the abrogation. Then the five-judge Constitution bench was headed by then Justice NV Ramana and comprised Justices SK Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
Published: 31 Aug 2023, 1:26 PM