190816 india supreme court
A five-member bench of the Supreme Court ruled that Article 370 was a temporary provision to ease Jammu and Kashmir's merger with India Image Credit: PTI

In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court of India affirmed the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

A 5-judge Constitutional bench delivered its verdict today based on petitions challenging the government of India’s decision to make changes to the provision, and reorganise the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the two Union Territories — J&K and Ladakh.

“Jammu and Kashmir holds no internal sovereignty after accession to India,” Chief Justice of India (CJI), D Y Chandrachud, said in his verdict.

Supreme Court noted that there were no maladies in exercise of power under Article 370(3) by President to issue August 2019 order. “Thus, we hold the exercise of Presidential power to be valid,”the Court said.

“The concurrence of the State government was not required to apply all provisions of the Constitution using Article 370(1)(d). So, the President of India taking the concurrence of the Union government was not malafide,” the CJI added.

It asked the Election Commission of India to conduct assembly elections in the province by Sep 30, 2024.

The ruling directed the Government of India to restore the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir as early as possible.

India’s Supreme Court was engaged in a significant deliberation regarding the authority of the Parliament to amend Article 370 of the Constitution that revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

The central question before the Apex Court was whether such amendments could be made unilaterally by the Modi-led government or required the recommendations of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir state. This verdict arrived more than four years after the BJP government in India annulled Article 370 through a special presidential order.

In its judgement on the batch of petitions challenging the legal validity of this order, the five-judge Constitutional bench grappled with the nuanced constitutional aspects of Article 370.

The complexity arose from determining whether the government’s actions aligned with the Constitution. The petitioners vehemently argued for a “constitutional fraud,” while the Government of India maintained that the process adhered to the “due process established under the law.”

Providing background, on Aug. 5, 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by modifying Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha.

Simultaneously, the Rajya Sabha passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, proposing the division of the state into two union territories — Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh, all transpiring during the erstwhile state’s period under President’s Rule.

The removal of Article 35A, alongside Article 370, meant the end of exclusive rights for Jammu and Kashmir residents in terms of jobs, land ownership, and settlement, which had previously been their fundamental rights.

The Supreme Court, after a 16-day hearing considering arguments both for and against the government’s 2019 actions, reserved its decision on Sep. 5 of the current year.

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud led the bench, comprising the court’s four other most senior judges — Justices S K Kaul, Sanjeev Khanna, B R Gavai, and Surya Kant.