PC seeks early hearing of cases on Article 370 before SC

J&K People’s Conference (JKPC) has sought early hearing of a batch of petitions challenging abrogation of special constitutional position of J&K, before the Supreme Court.

In an application filed before the apex court, JKPC has submitted that shortly after the SC declined to refer the petitions on Article 370 to a larger bench on March 3, 2020, functioning of the Court was “suspended” on account of the outbreak of Covid19.

“The batch of petitions is yet to be heard on merits even though seven months have lapsed since the order dated 02.03.2020 was passed by the Court and over a year has lapsed since the Constitution Orders and the Reorganisation Act were issued,” it pleads.

“It is submitted that during this time, Respondent No. 1 (Union of India) has continued to effect drastic changes to the legal regime applicable to the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, including by way of orders issued under Section 96 of the Reorganisation Act,” the applicant submits.

These orders, the application submits, extend the applicability of various central laws to the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh created under the Reorganisation Act.

The party further submits that the laws of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir have also been “repealed, adapted and modified” by Union of India by way of orders issued under Section 96 of the Reorganisation Act.

“These orders, issued under the Reorganisation Act, the validity and constitutionality of which is under challenge in the present batch of petitions, make far-reaching changes in the legal regime applicable to the erstwhile State of J&K and impact the vested rights of the permanent residents of the former state of J&K as well as the rights of other Indian citizens”.

The applicant submits that these orders are “illegal, unconstitutional and void ab initio as the authority to issue these orders derives from the impugned Constitution Orders and the Reorganisation Act, which the Petitioners submit are invalid and unconstitutional”.

Pointing out that the petitioners have made out a very strong prima facie case, the application submits that “serious constitutional questions having far reaching implications and impact are pending consideration in the present batch of petitions. “It is imperative that these questions are considered at an early date”.

The party has pleaded that pending final hearing of these petitions, and notwithstanding the prevailing pandemic conditions, “sweeping changes are being brought about by respondent Union of India that impact the rights of a large number of people, including dilution of the safeguards earlier available to the permanent residents of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir”.

These changes, the applicant submits, will have an “irreparable impact on the rights of Indian citizens, including creation of domicile rights and third-party rights in land ownership”.

The applicant pleads that “these changes, which presume the validity of the Constitution Orders and the Reorganisation Act which are under challenge, unfairly prejudice and pre-judge the case of the petitioners before the SC”.

It further states that the very purpose of the present proceedings will be “severely undermined” if the present petitions are not heard and disposed of urgently.

“. . . the present batch of petitions ought to be heard and disposed of urgently as significant changes to the rights of the residents of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir have already been brought about by respondent Union of India pursuant to Constitution Orders and the Reorganisation Act”.

“These changes,” the applicant pleads, “would necessarily be invalidated if the Constitution Orders and Reorganisation Act were to be held to be unconstitutional and invalid by Court.”