President of the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would deliver a verdict in favour of the people on a bunch of petitions challenging abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.
The Central government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it is ready for holding election in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir any time now and decision depended on Election Commission of India, and State Election Commission, however, stating that it cannot give an exact time frame for restoration of statehood to the Union Territory.
Telling the five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said that the “Central government is ready for elections any time now,” the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the process of updating voters’ list in Jammu and Kashmir is underway and it will take a month or so to complete.
Reiterating the position that was stated before the constitution bench on Tuesday – August 29 – that the Union Territory status of J&K is a temporary feature and the Statehood will be restored to it, the Central government, however, on Thursday said that it is unable to give specific timeframe for restoring statehood to the Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre today said this in response to a query by the top court on August 29.
“I am unable to give an exact time period for complete Statehood, while saying Union Territory status is a temporary,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing the Central government told the constitution bench.
The constitution bench in the last hearing of the matter on August 29, had sought the “roadmap and the time-frame” within which J&K will be restored its statehood, that was taken away on August 5 with the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of erstwhile State into two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
Stating that for the first time, three-tier Panchayat Raj system is being introduced in the State, the Solicitor General Mehta told the constitution bench also comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice B.R. Gavai, and Justice Surya Kant, that the election to the legislature in the J&K is likely to be held after panchayat and the municipal bodies elections.
He said, “Till date, updating of voters list was going on, which is substantially over. Some part is remaining, that the Election Commission is doing.”
Dwelling further on the course being followed for restoring Statehood to the Union Territory of J&K, Solicitor General Mehta said that steps are being taken by the Central government for the Statehood of Jammu and Kashmir and these steps can be taken only if it is a Union Territory.
Stating the various steps that have been taken by the Central government for the J&K to become a complete State, Solicitor General said that the terrorist instances have reduced by 45.2 per cent compared from 2018 to 2023 and infiltration has been reduced by 90 per cent. Law and order issues like stone pelting etc. reduced by 97 per cent. The casualty amongst security personnel has come down by 65 per cent.
Referring to the instances of stone pelting, Solicitor General said that in 2018 there were 1767 cases, now it is nil. Youth has been gainfully employed now, earlier they were misled by secessionist forces. Organised bandhs etc. in 2018 were 52 and now it is nil.
He said that in 2022, 1.8 crores tourists visited and in 2023, 1 crore tourists visited.
However, the senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that the government has 5,000 people in house arrest, section 144 imposed, internet was shut off, and people could not even go to hospitals.
Having said this, Sibal said, “Let us not make a mockery of democracy, and not talk about bandhs etc.”
Chief Justice Chandrachud then clarified that it will deal with the legality of the abrogation of Article 370 on constitutional grounds and that facts relating to election or statehood won’t affect that determination.
The Constitution bench is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories.
On August 5, 2019, the Central government announced the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 and split the region into two Union territories.