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Supreme Court’s Landmark Verdict: Upholding Article 370 Abrogation, Restoring J&K Statehood, and Mandating Elections by 2024

Legal Epiphany: Supreme Court's Unanimous Ruling Validates Article 370 Abrogation and Sets Timetable for J&K's Political Future

11-12-2023 : The Supreme Court delivered a momentous verdict on Monday, unanimously affirming the Centre’s decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370, which granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The court not only upheld the abrogation but also directed the restoration of statehood “at the earliest” and mandated elections to the assembly by September 30, 2024.

In a landmark ruling, a five-judge Constitution bench, led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, issued three concurring judgments, supporting the abrogation of constitutional provisions that had conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir since its annexation to the Union of India in 1947.

Chief Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgment for himself and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, emphasized that Article 370 was a temporary provision, and the President had the authority to revoke it in the absence of the Constituent Assembly of the erstwhile state. The verdict marked the culmination of a prolonged debate and signaled a significant legal resolution to the historic issue.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the Supreme Court’s decision as a “resounding declaration of hope, progress, unity for our sisters and brothers in J&K, Ladakh.” The court also upheld the validity of the creation of the union territory of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, the day when Article 370 was abrogated, and the state was bifurcated into two union territories.

Justice Chandrachud referred to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s statement on the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood, excluding Ladakh, and expressed that there was no need to determine the permissibility of the reorganization under Article 3. However, the court upheld the validity of carving out the Union Territory of Ladakh based on Article 3(a) read with Explanation I.

The Chief Justice highlighted that the Constitution of India served as a comprehensive code for constitutional governance. He stated that the President had the power to issue a notification declaring the cessation of Article 370(3) without the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly.

The court directed the Election Commission of India to conduct elections to the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir by September 30, 2024. It emphasized the need for the earliest restoration of statehood.

Addressing the issue of sovereignty, Justice Chandrachud clarified that the erstwhile state of J&K lost any “element of sovereignty” after the execution of the Instrument of Accession and the adoption of the Constitution of India in 1949. He underscored that Article 370 represented asymmetric federalism, not sovereignty.

The judgment delved into the President’s power under Article 370(1)(d) and upheld the validity of issuing a notification to cease Article 370. The court clarified that concurrence with the state government was not required for applying the provisions of the Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir.

Justice Chandrachud stated that challenges to proclamations under Section 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution and Article 356 of the Indian Constitution did not merit adjudication, as the principal challenge pertained to actions taken after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

In his verdict, Justice Kaul emphasized that the purpose of Article 370 was to gradually bring Jammu and Kashmir at par with other Indian states. He recommended the establishment of an impartial truth-and-reconciliation commission to investigate human rights violations since 1980.

Justice Khanna, in his separate verdict, concurred with the Chief Justice and Justice Kaul, providing his own reasons for the conclusion. While reactions to the verdict varied, with disappointment expressed by some political leaders, the decision marked a significant legal milestone in the complex and historic issue of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.