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Centre Ready for Jammu and Kashmir Elections, Restoration of Statehood Gradual: Supreme Court Hears Article 370 Case

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      01 September, 2023 06:48 PM      0 Comments
Centre Ready for Jammu and Kashmir Elections, Restoration of Statehood Gradual: Supreme Court Hears Article 370 Case

NEW DELHI: The Union government on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that it is ready for elections any time in Jammu and Kashmir. However, it maintained that the restoration of full statehood to J&K full take time as positive steps are being taken to ameliorate the lot of people by the Centre as it is a Union Territory.

Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made a statement before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai, and Surya Kant, which is hearing a batch of pleas challenging the abrogation of Article 370, which granted special status on the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that the central government is ready for elections in J&K anytime now. Updation of voters list was going on and substantial work had been completed, he said, adding the final call has to be taken by the Election Commission.

Mehta said district development council elections have already taken place and now the panchayat elections will be held shortly. He also said Leh Hill Development Council elections are over and that elections for Kargil will be held in September.

Mehta said municipality elections will follow these elections, and third elections will be for legislative assembly.

However, the Centre said, though steps to revert J&K into a state have already been implemented gradually, it cannot give an exact time frame for restoration of statehood of J&K.

Mehta said terrorist incidents have been reduced by 45%, infiltration by 90.2% in J&K, security personnel casualty by 65.9% and stone pelting by 97%, which are important parameters for holding elections.

He also said in 2018, the stone pelting was 1767, which is nil now.

"It is not just because of effective policing and security personnel but because of various steps such as gainful employment of youth etc. The youth were earlier misled by secessionist forces," he said.

Appearing on the side of petitioners senior advocate Kapil Sibal, however, asked the court whether it is taking into account facts brought before the court by Mehta.

The bench, however, clarified that these facts would have possibly no bearing on the constitutional issue, related to the abrogation of Article 370.

Sibal said the petitioners’ would have to counter these facts, if the court was to take those on record.

The bench told Sibal that the court had asked the Centre for a roadmap to restore statehood of J&K and they have provided their response.

Sibal vehemently argued that these facts would go into the mind of the court because the Centre is attempting to show that an enormous change has taken place. Sibal said that when 5000 people are under house arrest and section 144 is imposed throughout the state, then how there could be any bandh or hartal.

He asked the court not to consider the facts given by Mehta otherwise they would have to counter it.  

The Chief Justice said this is not relevant to constitutional challenge before the court, the nature of development which Centre says took place after abrogation of Article 370. Sibal said but these facts have come on record.

The bench said to be fair to Mehta, what he was saying was that the roadmap for full statehood of J&K would take time but right now development work is taking place and some stability has come into the region.

The bench said that in these matters there can be and should be policy differences but it cannot affect the constitutional arguments and “this isn't a justification and cannot be a constitutional challenge”.

Mehta said during his submissions he had not relied on these figures. Sibal highlighted house arrest of thousands of people.

"Let us not make a mockery of democracy", he said, claiming all this arguments are televised and people think what a great thing has been done by the government, which creates a problem.

Sibal said the internet was shut down in the region  and then the government is saying there were no bandhs.

"How can there be bandhs when people can't even go to hospitals," he contended.

The bench said it has heard the matter so far in a sort of dispassionate way and with a sense of objectivity and urged the both sides to maintain it.



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