A long wait will be over in less than three days’ time as the Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court will deliver its judgment on the petitions challenging revocation of Article 370 on December 11, though it is difficult to presume as to what it would be, but it’s certain to have its lasting impact on the national discourse on the status of Jammu and Kashmir.
After hearing the petitioners who had challenged the government action of doing away with the Articles 370 and 35-A that granted special status and privileges to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now split into two union territories of J&K, and Ladakh for 16 days beginning from August 2, 2023, on September 5, it announced to reserve the judgment. And on Thursday late evening it came to be known that the verdict will be delivered on December 11.
The Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud comprising Justices Sanjay Kishen Kaul, Sanjeev Khanna, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, will deliver the judgment on the validity or otherwise of the government action of August 5/6, 2019 when the constitutional provision was scrapped The abrogation of Article 370 changed the status of J&K and its relationship with the rest of the country in one go . The special status , under which J&K had its separate constitution , while the separate head of the state , “ Sadr-e-Riyasat” and Prime Minister were removed in 1965 . On August 5/6, 2019, the Government also divided the state, conferring status of Union Territory to Ladakh, the region spread over to 59,146 Sq. Kms, but sparsely populated , and J&K with a population of 13 million and area of 42,241 sq. kms was demoted as UT , and all the rights of land and jobs were also opened to the non-natives.
Since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed many changes – the West Pakistan refugees, Valmikis and Gorkhas got their citizenship rights , which they were denied under the provisions of Article 370 and 35-A. Until the abolition of this particular constitutional provision, they had no rights to vote in Panchayat, Assembly or local bodies polls, nor they had access to professional institutions and no place in government jobs. Though the anti-terrorism operations were in progress and yielded good results, but after August 5, 2019, these were intensified – a zero-tolerance of terrorism policy was adopted that meant striking at the roots of terrorism and its ecosystem. That approach has brought much sought after and long-awaited normalcy in Kashmir apart from delivering the peace dividend in the form of unprecedented tourist footfall.
But there has been a flip side- Assembly elections have not been held for the past more than five years – the last elected government was engineered to collapse on June 19, 2018, and the Assembly was dissolved on November 21, 2018. The elections should have been held by May 2019. The wait for the elections is still on, and the government has no answer to this, except that Election Commission will take call on it . The people are feeling pinch. The BJP has started peace versus elections narrative to justify the delay in polls to validate its claim that abrogation of Article 370 has brought peace and it would get derailed if the elections are held.
All these points were heard by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court , and the references, why the statehood is not being granted and the elections are not being held too had come up during the hearing.
The parties on the two sides – the Central government and the petitioners who had challenged the abrogation of Article 370 are hoping that the verdict will go in their favour. Therefore, the verdict is critically important and it will shape the future political narrative in the country, and in particular J&K.