The Supreme Court on Wednesday outrightly rejected an attempt to establish a linkage between scrapping of the special status for J&K and the constitutional guarantees for the north-eastern states, while also scotching attempts to revive a challenge to J&K delimitation exercise in the light of the erstwhile state’s division into two UTs.
Arunachal Pradesh Congress leader Padi Richo, through Senior Advocate Manish Tiwari, said the SC must take into account the possible fallout of the Union government’s “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional” exercise to end the special status of J&K under Article 370, which was promised by the framers of the Constitution in 1950, for the N-E states.
Repudiation of the promise to J&K has seeded apprehensions in the minds of the people of N-E states, where tribal communities and states have been given certain autonomy guarantees through special provisions of Article 371, the Congress leader contended. He attempted to flag the ethnic strife in Manipur as a possible fallout.
‘Let us keep NE out of Article 370 proceedings’
I do not want to comment on what is happening in Manipur,” he said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta reacted sharply and said, “This argument has a potential of mischief. We must know the difference between temporary provisions (applicable to J&K) and special provisions (for north-east). The government has no intention to change, modify or touch any special provisions either for N-E or other states mentioned in Part XXI of the Constitution. Let him not try to create unnecessary apprehensions.”
When Tiwari continued in the same vein and argued that such apprehensions in the minds of people in states with international borders could have serious implications for the country, a bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay K Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai and Surya Kant stopped him from enlarging the scope of the case’s remit – adjudication of the validity of August 5, 2019 decision to abrogate two of the three provisions of Article 370 to scrap special status for Jammu and Kashmir.
“Why should we go into the impact of our interpretation of Article 370 to other special provisions in the Constitution? Why should we apprehend what could be the impact of future decisions of the government or Parliament? Let us keep north-east out of the proceedings on Article 370, especially when it is strongly refuted by the Centre. We do not think we will go into your (Tiwari’s) argument at all,” it said. In another significant development, the court refused to decide afresh the validity of delimitation process for UT of J&K, pursuant to coming into force of J&K Reorganisation Act on October 31, 2019. The petitioners had argued that if the creation of two UTs through the J&K Reorganisation Act was unconstitutional, the delimitation process would also be liable to be struck down.
The bench said the SC had on February 13 this year upheld the initiation of delimitation process for UT of J&K and that there was no question of re-examining the same issue. By the Reorganisation Act, seats in the J&K UT assembly was increased from 107 to 114, with 24 in Pak-occupied Kashmir being kept vacant.