SC Validates Art 370 Abrogation in J&K, Settles Decades-Long Debate: Key Updates

Sectoral News: The CJI said the erstwhile state of J&K does not retain any "element of sovereignty" after the execution of the Instrument of Accession & the issuance of the proclamation dated Nov 25, 1949 by which the Constitution of India was adopted

The Processor
New Update

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court validated the Centre's move to revoke Article 370, bestowing special status upon Jammu and Kashmir. Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, along with a five-judge Constitution bench, delivered concurring judgments, emphasizing the temporary nature of Article 370 and the President's authority to revoke it.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the purpose of Article 370 was to slowly bring J&K at par with other Indian states. He directed the setting up of an "impartial truth-and-reconciliation commission" to probe human rights violations, both by state and non-state actors, at least since 1980. 

The Supreme Court verdict is a "resounding declaration of hope, progress, unity for our sisters and brothers in J&K, Ladakh", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

J&K's Statehood Restoration & Election Directives

The apex court directed the Election Commission of India to conduct Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections by September 30, 2024. Additionally, the restoration of J&K's statehood was urged to occur promptly, marking significant steps post the state's bifurcation into two union territories in 2019.

"The President had the power to issue a notification declaring that Article 370(3) ceases to operate without the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly. The continuous exercise of power under Article 370(1) by the President indicates that the gradual process of constitutional integration was ongoing," the CJI said while pronouncing the verdict.

"We direct that steps shall be taken by the Election Commission of India to conduct elections to the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir constituted under Section 14 of the Reorganisation Act by September 30, 2024. Restoration of statehood shall take place at the earliest and as soon as possible," the CJI said.

Ladakh's Union Territory Status Affirmed

The court upheld the decision to create the union territory of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir, highlighting constitutional provisions allowing such territorial separations.

Justice Chandrachud underscored that India's Constitution served as a complete guide for governance, emphasizing the President's authority in nullifying Article 370(3) without the Constituent Assembly's recommendation.

Justice Chandrachud referred to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's statement that Jammu and Kashmir's statehood will be restored, except for the carving out of the Union Territory of Ladakh.

"In view of the statement we do not find it necessary to determine whether the reorganisation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir is permissible under Article 3.

"However, we uphold the validity of the decision to carve out the Union Territory of Ladakh in view of Article 3(a) read with Explanation I which permits forming a Union Territory by separation of a territory from any State," he said.

In his verdict, the CJI stated that the Constitution of India was a complete code for constitutional governance.

Legal Clarifications and Jurisdictional Rulings

The verdict clarified the President's powers under Article 370, citing that the exercise of such authority didn't necessitate collaboration with the state government. 

The CJI said the erstwhile state of J&K does not retain any "element of sovereignty" after the execution of the Instrument of Accession and the issuance of the proclamation dated November 25, 1949 by which the Constitution of India was adopted.

 "Article 370 was a feature of asymmetric federalism and not sovereignty," Justice Chandrachud said. He said the exercise of power by the president under Article 370(1)(d) to issue CO 272 (by which Indian Constitution was put into effect in J&K) was not mala fide.

"The President in exercise of power under Article 370(3) can unilaterally issue a notification that Article 370 ceases to exist," he said.

"The President did not have to secure the concurrence of the Government of the State or Union Government acting on behalf of the State Government under the second proviso to Article 370(1)(d) while applying all the provisions of the Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir because such an exercise of power has the same effect as an exercise of power under Article 370(3) for which the concurrence or collaboration with the State Government was not required," Justice Chandrachud said. He said the petitioners did not challenge the issuance of the proclamations under Section 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Article 356 of the Indian Constitution until the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated.

Political Responses

Writing on X, Shah said, “On the 5th of August 2019, PM @narendramodi Ji took a visionary decision to abrogate #Article370. Since then peace and normalcy have returned to J&K. Growth and development have brought new meaning to human life in the valley once torn by violence. Prosperity in the tourism and agriculture sectors has raised the income levels of the residents of both Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.”

While the verdict disappointed some political leaders, including Omar Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad, it stirred discussions about continued efforts and acceptance of the legal decision.

“There was hope from court, but they have interpreted the Constitution. It was a mistake to abrogate Article 370. J&K political parties should have also been consulted, said former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Former J&K CM and vice-president of Jammu Kashmir National Conference Omar Abdullah said he is “disappointed but not disheartened” with the judgment. “The struggle will continue. It took the BJP decades to reach here. We are also prepared for the long haul. #WeShallOvercome #Article370,” he said.

“Now, it has become clear that whatever happened is constitutionally valid…I request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to restore statehood soon,” said senior Congress leader and Maharaja Hari Singh’s son Karan Singh as he “welcomed” the SC verdict.

BJP’s national president JP Nadda commended the Narendra Modi government for doing “historic work” in J&K, and said his party welcomes today’s verdict by the Supreme Court.

“The Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court has upheld the decision given to remove Section 370 and 35A, its process and objective. The government of Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has done the historic work of including Jammu and Kashmir in the main ideology of the country, for this, I and crores of our workers, express our heartfelt gratitude to the Prime Minister.”