Change in status of J-K: SC gives Centre 4 weeks to respond to pleas

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New Delhi, October 1: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to respond in four weeks to petitions challenging the change in constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir following the dilution of Article 370.

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A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice NV Ramana gave one week to the petitioners for filing their rejoinders.

The Bench — which will also have Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice R Subhash Reddy, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Surya Kant — posted the matter for further hearing on November 14.

The top court made it clear that it would not accept any other petitions on the issue for hearing.

The court gave four weeks to the Centre to respond to the petitions after Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the Government needed to file its response before the matter was heard. Venugopal is representing the Centre while Mehta is representing the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

On behalf of one of the petitioners, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran said the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019 was to come into effect from October 31 and the petitions will become infructuous.

“How can we hear without their counter,” the Bench said.

However, it made it clear that if it decided the case in favour of the petitioners, it will turn the clock back and restore the original constitutional status of the state.

The Bench said if needed, it will ask the Centre to produce all relevant documents pertaining to its decision to scrap special status to Jammu and Kashmir before it.

Article 370 and Article 35A together created a legal regime that discriminated against non-permanent residents of the state. But now Article 35A is completely gone while Article 370 stands considerably diluted, leading to end of the special status of the state.

The Supreme Court had on August 28 referred petitions challenging Presidential Orders nullifying Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories to a five-judge Constitution Bench.

While issuing notices to the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir, a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had earlier said the matter would be heard in the first week of October.