In a historic judgment delivered on December 11, 2023, the Supreme Court of India upheld the Union Government’s 2019 decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370 of the Constitution. The Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant, affirmed that J&K had no internal sovereignty and declared Article 370 a temporary provision.

The ruling clarified that the State of J&K didn’t retain sovereignty upon joining the Union of India. The absence of any reference to sovereignty in the J&K Constitution signified its integration into India, evident from Articles 1 and 370 of the Indian Constitution.

Regarding the J&K Reorganisation Act 2019, which bifurcated the State into Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, the Court refrained from pronouncing on this matter due to the Solicitor General’s assurance of J&K’s statehood restoration. However, it validated the creation of Ladakh as a Union Territory, citing Article 3 of the Constitution empowering Parliament to establish Union Territories from States.

An important directive from the apex court involved the Election Commission of India’s mandate to conduct elections for the J&K Legislative Assembly by September 30, 2024. This directive underscored the imperative need for political representation and governance in the region. Additionally, the Court urged the prompt restoration of J&K’s statehood, emphasizing its indispensable place within India.

The Constitution Bench’s conclusions, following a meticulous examination of the case:

1.  Validity of Article 370 and J&K’s Status:  

  The Court affirmed that J&K lacked internal sovereignty upon accession to India. It underscored the absence of any mention of sovereignty in the J&K Constitution, signifying its integration into India, as articulated in Articles 1 and 370 of the Indian Constitution.

2.  Temporary Nature of Article 370:  

  Clarifying that Article 370 was temporary, the Court highlighted its continued necessity despite the dissolution of the J&K Constituent Assembly. The provision was deemed essential to address the state’s unique situation.

3.  Validity of Presidential Rule and Constitutional Amendments:  

  While affirming the limitations of power during Presidential rule, the Court stated that the President’s power after the proclamation was subject to judicial review. It rejected the amendment to Article 370 through Article 367, deeming it ultra vires and highlighting the necessity of following the prescribed amendment process.

4.  Future Steps:  

  Justice SK Kaul proposed the formation of a “Truth and Reconciliation Committee” to investigate human rights violations since the 1980s. This committee would recommend reconciliation measures, leaving the formation and mode of operation to the government’s discretion.

This landmark verdict clarifies pivotal aspects of J&K’s integration and underscores its forthcoming restoration as a full-fledged state. The Court’s directives pave the way for political representation, governance, and a comprehensive reconciliation process in the region.

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