A batch of petitions challenging scrapping of Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir will be heard by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in early October, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said on Wednesday. Chief Justice Gogoi also issued a notice to the government to respond to the petitions on scrapping of Article 370 as well as restrictions on the media in Jammu and Kashmir.
During the hearing, the Centre’s top second most-senior law officer Tushar Mehta had requested the top court on more than one occasion not to issue a formal notice to the government.
Mehta had argued that the top court’s notice would have “cross-border repercussions” and was liable to be misused. Mehta also alluded to political leaders using the court notice to target the government. “Anything that happens on this issue is projected by other political leaders,” he said.
But the top court declined the request. “We have passed an order… We will not change it,” Chief Justice Gogoi said.
The petitions before the Supreme Court challenged Parliament’s decision to effectively revoke Article 370 three weeks back. The move to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was followed by another move that bifurcated the state into two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh. The two union territories would be born on October 31.
Discontent has simmered in Jammu and Kashmir since the early hours of August 5, when phone and Internet lines were suspended and restrictions on movement and assembly of people clamped. The government had also taken hundreds of political activists including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti in preventive custody. Officials have said this was done to ensure that the political class did not incite people.
Over the next three weeks, nearly 10 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court on various aspects of the law. A Jamia student from Kashmir wanted to be allowed to go home to check on his family, a J&K-based journalist complained about the media restrictions while CPM leader Sitaram Yechury filed a habeas corpus petition challenging the detention of Kashmiri politician and the party’s general secretary Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami. There were also several petitions challenging the end of Article 370. One of them was by a group of retired military officers and bureaucrats including former home secretary GK Pillai.