opn kashmir
Indian paramilitary troopers patrol past a cut-out of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Srinagar on December 11, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

The verdict Monday by India’s Supreme Court upholding the Modi government’s decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is expected to bring about a significant transformation in the political dynamics of the region.

Article 370, a constitutional provision providing special status to the Himalayan state, was at the centre of a legal and constitutional debate in India.

What are the key rulings here?

Integral Part of India

Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud asserted that Jammu and Kashmir did not retain any element of sovereignty upon its accession to India in 1947. The court underscored that, despite initial proclamations, the state’s integration into India was akin to other princely states, emphasising its status as an integral part of the country.

Temporary Provision

The Apex court clarified that Article 370 is a temporary, transitional provision. The judges adopted a textual approach, citing historical context and the placement of Article 370 in Part XXI of the Constitution, which deals with temporary provisions. This interpretation aligned with the provision’s inception during the warlike situation in 1947.

Abrogation Validated

The court upheld both presidential proclamations in 2019 that effectively abrogated Article 370. This included redefining the “constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir” as the “Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir.” The court referred to the landmark ‘SR Bommai v Union of India’ ruling to address concerns about the Union assuming state powers during President’s rule.

opn kashmir
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

What will be the implications of this ruling?

End of Special Status

The decision terminates Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, signifying the conclusion of its unique autonomy, its own Constitution and decision-making rights.

Nullification of Article 35A

The nullification of Article 370 also means the end of Article 35A, which granted special rights to permanent residents, such as government jobs and property ownership.

Election Commission Directive

The Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to conduct elections in Jammu and Kashmir by September 2024, paving the way for a renewed political process in the region.

Kashmir is globally known for its quality handicrafts such as carpets, woodcarving, woollens, saffron and top class silk

What did the court base its rulings on?

Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir

The court decided that Jammu and Kashmir did not have its own sovereignty after joining India in 1947. Even though the Maharaja (ruler) initially wanted to keep his authority, his successor, Karan Singh, declared that the Indian Constitution would be the supreme law in the state.

The court stated that this essentially meant Jammu and Kashmir merged with India, similar to other princely states. Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasised that Jammu and Kashmir has always been a fundamental part of India, citing relevant sections from both the J&K and Indian Constitutions.

Temporary Nature of Article 370

The Supreme Court confirmed that Article 370 is a temporary provision. Chief Justice Chandrachud explained that Article 370’s inclusion in Part XXI of the Constitution, which deals with temporary provisions, supports this view. He mentioned that this temporary provision served a specific purpose during the challenging circumstances in the state in 1947.

Abrogation of Article 370

The court upheld both presidential proclamations from August 2019 that effectively ended Article 370. A key challenge was whether these actions could be taken when the state was under President’s rule.

The court stated that the Governor can assume roles of the state legislature and such actions should be tested judicially only in extraordinary cases. The Chief Justice asserted that the bench found no evidence that the President’s orders were malicious or an inappropriate exercise of power.

What was the political reaction?

Ghulam Nabi Azad (DPAP President and Former Chief Minister): Azad expressed deep concern about the economic impact, anticipating that the region’s land would become more expensive. He criticised the abrogation of Article 370 as a mistake and urged for prior consultation with Jammu and Kashmir parties.

Mehbooba Mufti (PDP President): Mufti, while acknowledging the Supreme Court’s characterisation of Article 370 as temporary, framed the loss as not just theirs but the loss of the “idea of India.”

Omar Abdullah (Vice-President of National Conference): Abdullah expressed disappointment but resilience, stating that the struggle would continue, emphasising the need for a long-haul approach.

Sajad Lone (Former MLA and People’s Conference Member): Lone lamented that justice eluded the people of Jammu and Kashmir, highlighting the symbolic importance of Article 370 even after its legal obliteration.

What is likely to happen now?

Political landscape shift

The verdict reshapes the political landscape in Jammu and Kashmir, paving the way for a new era and new style of governance and representation.

Socioeconomic impact

The nullification of Article 35A has broad socioeconomic implications, particularly in terms of employment opportunities, land ownership, and economic development.

Electoral process restart

With the directive to conduct elections by September 2024, there’s anticipation of a renewed democratic process, allowing residents to participate in shaping the region’s future governance.

Magical Kashmir
Kashmir is strikingly beautiful, with forest-clad mountains, rivers running through lush valleys and lakes ringed by willow trees.
The back story
WHAT HAPPENED AT PARTITION? After partition of the subcontinent in 1947, Kashmir was expected to go to Pakistan, as other Muslim-majority regions did. Its Hindu ruler wanted to stay independent, but faced with an invasion by Pakistani tribesmen, he acceded to India in October 1947 in return for help against the invaders.

WHAT WAS THE CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION? Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which provided autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, was drafted in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, then the state’s prime minister, and accepted by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was included in the Indian constitution in October 1949.

HOW DID THE PICTURE CHANGE IN 1954? A further provision added to the constitution in 1954 as part of Article 370, article 35A empowered state lawmakers to ensure special rights and privileges for permanent residents of the state.

WHAT IS THE REGION’S GEOGRAPHIC APPEAL? The Himalayan region has two capitals, Jammu in winter, and Srinagar in summer.

Parts of Kashmir are strikingly beautiful, with forest-clad mountains, rivers running through lush valleys and lakes ringed by willow trees.
Kashmir sprawls over 42,241 sq km (16,300 sq miles).

The western Himalayan region is bounded by Pakistan to the west, Afghanistan to the northwest, China to the northeast, and India to the south.

WHAT ARE KEY FEATURES OF THE ECONOMY? It is about 80 per cent based on agriculture, with crops such as rice, maize, apples and saffron. The area is also known for handicrafts such as carpets, woodcarving, woollens and silk. (Inputs from Reuters)