New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday asked National Conference (NC) leader Muhammad Akbar Lone, who is one of one of the main petitioners in the batch of pleas filed against abrogation of Article 370 and had reportedly raised ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans in the State Assembly, to file a short affidavit affirming that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and he abides by and owes allegiance to the constitution of India.
“He (Akbar Lone) has come to our court, we are more than duty bound to hear his submissions. People across the political spectrum in J&K presented rival viewpoints before us, which is welcome … but all of them have come here with one spirit that they abide by the integrity of India,” remarked CJI D Y Chandrachud, who headed the Constitution Bench.
The Constitution Bench said that the J&K leader has invoked jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution and therefore, “necessarily abides by an allegiance to the Constitution.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented Akbar Lone, said that the petitioners did not challenge the sovereignty of India and at the outset, he had said that J&K is an integral part of India.
“If the first petitioner has said something, if he has said it- in what circumstances he said it, is it recorded, etc. You ask him for an affidavit. I have nothing to do with it,” said Sibal.
At this, the bench asked: “Do we take it that Lone unconditionally accepts the sovereignty of India and J&K is an integral part of India.”
In response, Sibal said that Akbar Lone is a Member of Parliament and has sworn to the Constitution of India.
“He is a citizen of India. How can he say otherwise? If anybody has said it, I deprecate it,” Sibal added.
“We want to have it from him that he unconditionally accepts that J&K is an integral part of India and abides by and owes allegiance to the Constitution,” said the Constitution Bench.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta claimed that Lone supports “separatist elements”.
“Let him say that he doesn't support secessionism and terrorism. No citizen of this country can have any objection in filing that affidavit,” Mehta said.
“If I start recounting, what may have happened. It will unnecessarily lead only to media coverage. We are arguing a pure constitutional issue. There was a speaker (of the legislative assembly) from BJP who was present there when this allegedly happened... Why do you want me to go into it? It is not a part of the record, it has been withdrawn and deleted from the record,” Sibal retorted, alleging that the Union is derailing legal submissions.
Sibal defended that one cannot be a member of Lok Sabha without swearing an oath of office that he abides by the Constitution of India. He said that the member has to take the oath before entering the Lok Sabha.
The Constitution Bench reiterated that it is merely asking for a short one-page affidavit from the main petitioner.
At this, Sibal said: “I would not stand arguing here if he doesn't give. I made a commitment that there will be an affidavit.”
Earlier in the day, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, pleaded before the Constitution Bench that the National Conference leader should file an affidavit that he owes allegiance to the Constitution of India and opposes terrorism and secessionism by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
SG Mehta said that if Akbar Lone is not asked to file an affidavit after the matter has been brought to the top court’s attention, it “might encourage others” and “efforts of the nation to bring in normalcy (in the union territory) might be affected”.
“Main petitioner in the lead petition saying "Pakistan Zindabad" on the floor of the house has its own seriousness,” SG Mehta said. The Constitution Bench was told a ‘startling’ fact that Lone has reportedly uttered pro-Pakistan slogans in the State assembly and hesitated to be identified himself as an Indian. It was also claimed that the National Conference leader as per media reports had said that J&K accession with India is not complete.