On Monday, the Congress demanded immediate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir; it also said that assembly elections should be held immediately to enable people to elect a government of their choice. The Congress party also said it ‘disagreed’ with the Supreme Court judgment.
At a press conference, Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and P Chidambaram said that the Supreme Court judgment in the cases related to abrogation of Article 370 has decided many issues but left out a few.
Chidambaram said the judgment needs a careful study, noting that “prima facie we respectfully disagree with judgment on the manner in which Art 370 was abrogated”. He also said the Congress has always demanded the restoration of full statehood to J&K and that “we welcome the SC verdict in this regard”.
On Monday, in concurring judgments, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Union government’s August 2019 Constitutional Order that abrogated Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The bench was led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprised justices S.K. Kaul, Sanjeev Khanna, Surya Kant and B.R. Gavai. It had reserved its verdict on 5 September on 23 petitions challenging the Presidential Orders of 2019 which had repealed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. It had heard the matter for 16 days.
The Supreme Court also directed that elections should be held in Jamuu and Kashmir by September 2024 and its statehood should be restored. The bench stated that Article 370 was a temporary condition.
Singhvi remarked, “We are also disappointed that SC did not decide the question of dismembering the state and reducing its status to two Union Territories. That question is being reserved for adjudication in a suitable case in future.”
The senior Congress leader added, “Full statehood must be restored immediately. The aspirations of the people of Ladakh must also be fulfilled. We welcome the SC direction to hold assembly elections. However, we believe elections should be held immediately and there is no reason to wait until 30 September 2024.”
He said further, “When elections are held, the people of J&K will have the opportunity to express their views on the crucial questions that we debated in the SC. They have been denied that opportunity so far.”
Sanghvi wanted to know why the BJP was afraid of an elected government in J&K. He asked, “Democracy, and not autocracy, is the demand of every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir. Why is the BJP afraid of an elected government?”
Article 370 of the Indian constitution gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and part of the larger region of Kashmir which has been the subject of a dispute between India, Pakistan and China since 1947. Jammu and Kashmir was administered by India as a state from 17 November 1952 to 31 October 2019, and Article 370 conferred on it the power to have a separate constitution, a state flag, and autonomy of internal administration.
Article 370 was drafted in Part XXI of the Indian constitution titled “Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions”. It stated that the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir would be empowered to recommend the extent to which the Indian constitution would apply to the state. The state assembly could also abrogate the Article 370 altogether, in which case all of Indian Constitution would have applied to the state.