SC issues notice to Centre on plea against Article 370

SC issues notice to Centre on plea against Article 370

The Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to examine the constitutional validity of the Union government's decisions to pass a Presidential Order on August 5, removing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the subsequent passage of a law dividing the state into two Union Territories.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer sought a response from the Centre on a batch of petitions filed by sitting National Conference MPs and others against the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution. The court also discarded the government's request not to issue a formal notice on the grounds that it was a "very sensitive" matter.

The court referred a dozen petitions for consideration before a five-judge Constitution bench in the first week of October.

The court rejected a plea by Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who contended that issuing any notice in the matter would be used to the disadvantage of the country at international forum like the United Nations. They said it might cause embarrassment to the government. Venugopal said, "The statements made here are sent to the UN."

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, said the Supreme Court issuing notice on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of a law cannot be viewed as an embarrassment to the Union government.

"We know what to do. We have passed the order," the bench said.

Yechury can meet Tarigami

The court, meanwhile, allowed Yechury to visit party colleague and four-time MLA Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami. Yechury had filed a habeas corpus petition, saying he was not able to meet the legislator and had not heard of him since August 4 and that he was not keeping well.

The bench, however, told Yechury that his visit would be only for the purpose of meeting the MLA. "We make it clear that if the petitioner is found to be indulging in any other act, omission or commission... it will be construed as a violation of this court’s order."

Solicitor General Mehta sought to oppose the plea, saying the MLA was hale and hearty and was a 'Z' category protectee.

"There is a citizen of this country. He wants to meet his colleague, let him go," the bench said.

The court also allowed Mohammad Aleem Syed — a law graduate from Jamia Milia Islamia — to visit his family in Anantnag. The court directed Srinagar police to facilitate his meeting. He was represented by senior advocate Sanjay Hegde.

A lawyer sought an urgent order for sending an interlocutory, saying there were serious human rights issues but the court declined to consider the plea.

Communication curbs

The court also took up petitions filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin and Congress sympathiser Tehseen Poonawalla for relaxing communication restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. The court sought a response from the Union government to their pleas within seven days.

J&K National Conference MPs Mohd Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi sought a declaration that the August 5 Presidential Order — which took away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 — was unconstitutional and inoperative.

They also challenged the validity of the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Act of 2019, which divided the state into two Union Territories, and sought a direction to declare it “unconstitutional, void, and inoperative” for being “contrary to constitutional scheme”.

Besides, separate petitions filed by Shah Faesal, former IAS topper and president of J&K People's Movement, and Radha Kumar, former J&K interlocutor, along with a group of former bureaucrats were also admitted for consideration.

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