New Delhi, Aug 29 : The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Attorney General (AG) and Solicitor General (SG) to get instructions from the Centre if there is a timeframe to make J&K a state again while hearing the submissions from the SG, who defended the abolition of Article 370.
A five-judge Constitution bench, led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, asked the AG and SG to apprise it of the timeframe it has in mind for restoration of statehood to J&K.
“Does Parliament have the power to convert an existing Indian state into an Union territory,” the Apex Court questioned the Centre.
The SG Mehta replied that the decision to make Jammu and Kashmir a Union Territory was not permanent. “J&K would again be made a State when things will get normal,” Mehta told the SC.
The Five-judge Constitution bench of Supreme Court is at present hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories.
The SG told the SC that a statement has also been made in the floor of the house and efforts are being made. ‘Once efforts are fruitful and the situation returns to normal, we will consider it.’
“We are always for national integration. I am not on elections and politics. I am on national integration. People’s betterment is being taken care with this,” Mehta said.
The Apex Court, however, asked the law officer that restoration of democracy is also important.
“Restoration of democracy is also equally very very important. We can’t have a situation where you have ….. mismanagement (disorder),” the bench observed.
Defending the Centre’s August 5, 2019 decision to abrogate Article 370, the SG Mehta said that in 2020 for the first time in decades local body elections took place and there was no hartal, no stonepelting, no curfew.
“New hotels are being built. Everyone has benefited from the decision,” Mehta told the Apex Court.
He further told the SC that youth, which used to be employed by terror groups, inimical to India, are employed gainfully now.
“These policy considerations (by the Centre) which decided the reorganisation was correct or not. The blueprint ensured what was done so that jammu and kashmir returns to normalcy,” Mehta said and defended the abrogation of article 370.
The SG also said that reorganisation of J&K into two UTs followed the same pattern as was adopted in 1966 by the government to create Haryana and UT of Chandigarh by dividing Punjab, when it was under President’s rule. In the future it could become a state.
“All are policy considerations. Whenever a state reorganization takes place, not only are their policy considerations as to why but also a blueprint as to what the centre would do after the state is reorganised. How to bring youth in mainstream? How to employ them all will be taken into consideration,” Mehta said.
Defending the August, 2019 decision, Mehta said that employment is also a right to life. But by Article 35A, despite living for decades together, no person outside J&K can acquire property, meaning thereby, no investment, he said.
The bench said, “Article 35A gives special rights to residents and can take away that right as far as non-residents are concerned”.
Mehta said the entire Constitution is now applicable to J&K, and brought J&K people at par with rest of their brothers and sisters, and also enabled that all welfare legislations are applicable.
Mehta said, “Till now people were convinced by those who were supposed to guide them that this is not a hindrance in your progress. This is your privilege; you fight and nobody can take away Article 370 from you…that is the most unfortunate part. Two major political parties are before the court defending 370, including 35A”.
Highlighting positive development after the Centre’s decision, Mehta said 16 lakh tourists have visited the place, new hotels have come up giving employment to a large number of people.