India top court gives BJP govt 4 weeks to reply to petitions challenging Article 370

Published October 1, 2019
An Indian paramilitary force soldier stands guard near a barbed wire barricade during restrictions in Srinagar Indian occupied Kashmir on September 27. — AP/File
An Indian paramilitary force soldier stands guard near a barbed wire barricade during restrictions in Srinagar Indian occupied Kashmir on September 27. — AP/File

A five-judge bench of India's Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the government four weeks to file its response to a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of occupied Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of Constitution, reported Indian media.

The SC also placed an embargo on filing of any fresh writ petition challenging constitutional validity on abrogation of Article 370, said The Quint.

The bench will take up the matter on November 14. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government stripped occupied Kashmir of its autonomy on August 5 while placing the valley under a lockdown and arresting Kashmiri leaders in a bid to prevent protests against the move. On October 5, the lockdown will have been in place for two months.

The pleas have challenged the communication blockade in occupied Kashmir, the illegal detention of children, and the impact of restrictions on healthcare.

The Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana, allowed the government and the occupied Jammu and Kashmir administration to file counter-affidavits on petitions challenging the scrapping of Article 370.

The top court refused the plea of petitioners that not more than two weeks be given, said The Hindu.

Senior Counsel Raju Ramachandran pointed out that the bifurcation of occupied Jammu and Kashmir, approved by Indian parliament on August 5, would come into effect on October 31. “The process will be irreversible and the petitions must not be rendered infructuous,” he urged the court, according to Scroll.in.

Meanwhile, on all the petitions and applications relating to the lockdown, the Supreme Court directed the government to file its response and adjourned the matter until October 16.

The court refused to entertain a petition seeking lifting of curbs on internet and fixed landline phone services across all hospitals and medical establishments in occupied Kashmir, said The Quint, instead directing the petitioner to approach the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Senior counsel Tushar Mehta, however, told the court that there were no restrictions in movement now and asked for two weeks to file a reply on the personal liberty issue.

On Monday, the court had postponed the hearings by a day, and said the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi did not have the time to hear the pleas. “We have the constitution bench case [Ayodhya dispute] to hear,” Gogoi was quoted as saying.

Among the petitions, three have been filed by advocates ML Sharma, Shakir Shabir and Soyaib Qureshi against the security clampdown. Sharma was the first petitioner to challenge the presidential order the government used to hollow out Article 370, said Scroll.in.

National Conference Lok Sabha members Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi have also filed a petition under Article 32 of Constitution, which allows the Supreme Court to issue any order to protect the fundamental rights of citizens, Scroll.in added. According to them, the presidential order was “unconstitutional, void and inoperative” in occupied Kashmir.

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