No Need To Refer Pleas Challenging Repeal Of Article 370 To Larger Bench: Supreme Court

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SRINAGAR: The supreme court on Monday refused to refer the matter concerning the Centre’s 5 August 2019 decision revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir to a larger bench, saying that a five-judge bench is “competent enough to hear the case.”

NGO People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association and an intervener had sought to refer the matter to a larger bench.

Quoting sources, media reports said that the petitioners had sought reference to a larger bench on the ground that two judgments of apex court – Prem Nath Kaul versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1959 and Sampat Prakash versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1970 – which dealt with the issue of Article 370 are in direct conflict and therefore the current bench of five judges could not hear the issue.

The judgment was delivered by a Constitution Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant after the order on the issue was reserved on 23 January.

After hearing arguments on the issue, the apex court had remarked that the case would only be referred to a larger bench if it finds major contradictions in the two judgments, as claimed by the petitioners.

Benchmarking Phase

Opposing the plea, the Centre had said that abrogation of provisions of Article 370, which granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, has become a “fait accompli” leaving the sole option to accept the change.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had told the bench – also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant – that “the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, has now become a “fait accompli” leaving the sole option to accept the change”.

Referring to the two earlier judgments, Venugopal had said that they were not related to each other and dealt with different issues. He had said that the verdict in Prem Nath Kaul versus Jammu and Kashmir did not deal with Article 370, rather with the question whether the Maharaja had the legislative power or not.

While referring to the verdict in Sampat Prakash versus Jammu and Kashmir, Venugopal had said though it dealt with some aspects of Article 370, it was not in direct conflict with the verdict in the Kaul case and therefore the present issue should not be referred to a larger bench.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir administration, had said he adopts the arguments of the Attorney General and favours no reference to a larger bench.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, had said that he is supporting Centre on the question that no reference is needed to a larger bench.

Pertinent to mention, a number of petitions have been filed in the apex court including those of private individuals, lawyers, activists and political parties and they have also challenged the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

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