India’s Supreme Court will hear petitions on July 11 challenging the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s decision on August 5 2019 to scrap the constitutional provisions that granted the Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir a semi-autonomous status within the Indian union.
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution allowed the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to have its own constitution, flag, and a two-house legislature that could frame its own laws.
Another piece of legislation scrapped on Aug. 5, 2019, was Article 35A, which allowed J&K to define its residents and barred outsiders from buying properties or taking up government jobs.
Jammu and Kashmir were downgraded from one state and divided into two centrally ruled Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, drawing sharp reactions from both Pakistan and China.
Pakistan claims the region in full, while China claims parts of Ladakh and controls a sizable chunk of the undivided J&K that existed before the formation of India and Pakistan in 1947.
Collectively, several individuals, groups, and political parties filed nearly 20 petitions in the apex court, calling the decision illegal and unconstitutional.
The abrogation of Kashmir’s autonomy was widely criticised by the majority of Indian political parties, including the opposition Congress party, which has ruled India for most of its existence and which has been blamed for hollowing out the autonomy when it was in power.
To forestall the possibility of a revolt in the disputed region, where an anti-India insurgency has been raging for more than three decades, the Indian government had deployed tens of thousands of paramilitary soldiers and police officers besides shutting down phone and internet services.
Tens of hundreds of people, including three former pro-India chief ministers and nearly the entire pro-freedom leadership, had been either jailed or detained in their homes.
Autonomy Scrapping: Court Hearing Awaited
Suhail Bhukari, the spokesman of the People’s Democratic Party, which was the last regional party to share power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy, told Anadolu news agency that the matter should have been heard much earlier.
“Still, better late than never. It is a matter of rights of over 12 million people. We are hopeful that the abrogation will be struck down, as it is patently illegal and won’t stand the scrutiny of the court of law,” Bukhari said.
NC spokesman Imran Nabi Dar said his party was among the first to challenge “the patently illegal and unconstitutional” decision.
“We hope the rights of people are kept in consideration, and we are confident that their illegal decision would not stand the scrutiny of law. We consider the upcoming hearing to be a positive development, although it took very long,” he said.
For the ruling BJP, however, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A is irreversible. Its top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have repeatedly said that the provisions have been “buried forever.”
A former Communist Party of India lawmaker, Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami, said the court “will roll back the unilateral decision” at the hearing.
“The decision of the court will be honoured by everyone, but the decision taken about Article 370 was backed by the Constitution, and the matter ended on Aug. 5 forever. It is a dead chapter now. I am sure the court will also conclude that the matter died on Aug. 5 forever," BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur told Anadolu.