Supreme Court upholds Article 370 scrapping, sets path for Jammu and Kashmir elections
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India today endorsed the Centre’s decision to scrap the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution. The Court also ordered that elections in the region be held by September 30, 2024.
Historic Decision on Article 370
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, while reading out a majority Supreme Court judgment, stated that Article 370 was a temporary provision meant to facilitate Jammu and Kashmir’s merger with India. The Supreme Court emphasized the need to put Jammu and Kashmir on par with other states “at the earliest and as soon as possible.”
Unanimous Judgment by the Bench
The bench issued three separate judgments, with one authored by Chief Justice Chandrachud on behalf of himself and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant; a concurring judgment by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul; and a third judgment concurring with the other two by Justice Sanjiv Khanna. This resulted in all five judges unanimously upholding the presidential order to scrap Article 370.
Clarification on Jammu and Kashmir’s Sovereignty
The Supreme Court clarified that Jammu and Kashmir did not retain sovereignty when it joined India, and its constituent assembly ceased to exist upon its merger with India. The Court stated, “The J&K constituent assembly was not intended to be a permanent body. It was formed only to frame the Constitution. The recommendation of the Constituent Assembly was not binding on the President.”
Explanation of Continued Special Status
The Court explained why the state continued to enjoy special status even after its merger with India. “When the constituent assembly ceased to exist, the special condition for which Article 370 was introduced also ceased to exist. But the situation in the state remained, and thus the Article continued,” the Supreme Court said.
Article 370’s Impact and Article 35A
Article 370 had granted Jammu and Kashmir its own Constitution and decision-making rights for all matters except defense, communications, and foreign affairs. Its removal ended the state’s special status. Article 35A, part of Article 370, allowed the state to define permanent residents and granted them special rights.
Validity of Jammu and Kashmir’s Reorganisation
The Supreme Court did not find it necessary to assess the validity of Jammu and Kashmir’s reorganization into a Union Territory, considering it a temporary arrangement until the election and restoration of statehood.
The Supreme Court’s ruling marks a significant chapter in India’s constitutional history, setting the stage for the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian Union and paving the way for democratic processes in the region.