New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday held that Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, was a temporary provision adding that the state held no internal sovereignty. It was pronouncing its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019.
"We have held that Article 370 is a temporary provision. Article 370 was an interim arrangement due to war conditions in the State. Textual reading also indicate that it is a temporary provision. Marginal note says it is temporary and transitory," the court said.
"When the constituent assembly ceased to exist, the special condition for which 370 was introduced ceased to exist but the situation in the state remained and thus the article continued."
"There is a clear absence in the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir to the reference of sovereignty. That the State of Jammu and Kashmir became an integral part of India is evident from Articles 1 and 370 of the Constitution of India," Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said while reading the verdict.
"When the constituent assembly ceased to exist, the special condition for which 370 was introduced ceased to exist but the situation in the state remained and thus the article continued," he said.
The court held that the State of J&K had no internal sovereignty and the concurrence of the State Government was not required to apply the Indian Constitution to the State of J&K. In view of the submission of the Solicitor General that the Union will restore the statehood of J&K as soon as possible, the Court did not adjudicate upon the validity of the reorginazation of J&K into Union Territory (UT). However, the carving out of Ladakh as UT was upheld.
The court also issued a direction to the Election Commission of India to take steps to hold elections to the J&K Legislative Assembly by September 30, 2024.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud is delivering the verdict. The other members of the bench are Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai and Surya Kant. The apex court reserved its verdict in the matter on September 5 after a 16-day hearing.
During the hearing, the top court heard Attorney General R Venkataramani, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, senior advocates Harish Salve, Rakesh Dwivedi, V Giri and others on behalf of the Centre and the intervenors defending the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370.
Senior advocates, including Kapil Sibal, Gopal Subramanium, Rajeev Dhavan, Zaffar Shah and Dushyant Dave, had argued on behalf of the petitioners.
The lawyers had dwelt on various issues, including the constitutional validity of the Centre's decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370, the validity of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, which split the erstwhile state into two Union territories, challenges to the imposition of the governor's rule in Jammu and Kashmir on June 20, 2018 and the imposition of the president's rule on December 19, 2018 and its extension on July 3, 2019.
The petitions challenging the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 and the validity of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 that divided the erstwhile state into the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were referred to the Constitution bench in 2019.
The arguments in the matter had commenced on August 2.
During the hearing, the apex court had asked who can recommend the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir when no constituent Assembly, the concurrence of which is required before taking such a step, exists there.
The top court had also asked how can a provision (Article 370), which was specifically mentioned as temporary in the Constitution, become permanent after the tenure of the Jammu and Kashmir constituent Assembly came to an end in 1957.
Some of the petitioners opposing the repeal of Article 370 had argued that the provision could not have been abrogated as the term of the Jammu and Kashmir constituent Assembly ended in 1957 after it drafted the erstwhile state's Constitution.
With the constituent Assembly having become extinct, Article 370 acquired a permanent status, they had said.
The Centre had argued that there was no "constitutional fraud" in annulling the provision that accorded the special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
(With Live Law, PTI inputs.)