The Supreme Court of India has constituted a five-member bench to hear petitions challenging the abrogation of occupied Kashmir’s special status, Indian media outlets reported on Monday.

In 2019, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had revoked occupied Kashmir’s special status by repealing Article 370 of the constitution. The move allowed people from the rest of the country to have the right to acquire property in occupied Kashmir and settle there permanently.

Article 370 had limited the power of the Indian parliament to impose laws in the state, apart from matters of defence, foreign affairs and communications.

Kashmiris, international organisations and critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government had termed the move an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.

A notification issued by the Indian apex court today said the five-member bench comprises Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Surya Kant.

According to The Hindustan Times, more than 20 petitions were filed questioning the constitutional validity of the Indian government’s Aug 2019 decision to abrogate Article 370.

“Petitioners claimed that constitutional provisions were violated while making the decision,” the report stated.

Separately, The Hindu said that the petitioners had also brought up the case on February 17 for early listing, adding that the Indian chief justice had agreed to give a specific date for the hearing.

“The Article 370 case has been pending in the Supreme Court for over two years. The case had not come up after a five-judge bench refused to refer the petitions to a larger bench in March 2020,” it added.

The development was welcomed by the former chief ministers of occupied Kashmir.

“I look forward to the hearings beginning in right earnest now,” Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Mehbooba Mufti hoped that justice would be upheld and delivered for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “The SC ruling on Article 370 maintained that the provision can be abrogated only on the recommendation of the J&K constituent assembly,” she said.

Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson for occupied Kashmir Altaf Thakur said Article 370 was legally removed by the Indian parliament and “those who want to take the matter to courts can do so as they are open to all”.

“But, Article 370 is already dead…The dead cannot be brought back,” he told ANI.

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