August 30, 2023
NEW DELHI – The Central government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the post abrogation of Article 370, the status of the bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory is only a temporary one and it will be restored to statehood. However, Ladakh would continue to remain a Union Territory.
The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, said that a positive statement would be made soon.
He said this in response to a query by a five-judge constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, asking about the roadmap and timeframe for restoring the statehood to Jammu & Kashmir.
“We need a statement from the Central government on this, that if there is a time frame in view? The restoration of democracy is a vital component of our nation. Please tell us what the roadmap is for this,” the five-judge constitution bench asked the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in the course of the hearing on its 12th day.
The hearing had commenced on August 2, 2023.
Besides Chief Justice Chandrachud, the constitution bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice B R Gavai and Justice Surya Kant is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 – that conferred a special status on erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir – and the bifurcation of State into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Following a query by the bench, the Solicitor General Mehta, after taking instructions from the Centre, informed the bench, “I have taken instructions and the instructions are that the Union Territory (of J&K) is not a permanent feature and I will make a positive statement the day after tomorrow. Ladakh would remain a Union Territory…”
In the course of the hearing today, the Chief Justice Chandrachud questioned whether Parliament was empowered to convert a State into a Union Territory.
As the solicitor general 0referred to the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act to address the poser from the bench, the bench asked if the Union Territory status of the region was permanent.
He replied in negative, saying, “I would eventually show how the Central government’s intention is to restore Statehood and conduct elections.”
On August 5, 2019, the Central government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by repealing Article 370 and bifurcating the erstwhile state into two Union territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
The stand of the Central government that Jammu & Kashmir will get back its Statehood is not a new one. Earlier on October 23, 2021, during his visit to Jammu & Kashmir, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir will be restored soon after the delimitation, followed by elections.
The Union home minister had said this during his first visit to Jammu & Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories.