Kashmir’s unionists pin hopes on top court as Art-370 hearing begins

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Srinagar: After a 4-year long hiatus, as the top court begins to hear a batch of petitions that challenge the constitutionality of the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, the unionists are keeping a close eye hoping for “justice to prevail”.

Former chief minister and National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah attended the first day of the hearings. “I think it is the biggest challenge before the Supreme Court when it comes to Kashmir after India’s Independence,” he told reporters after the hearing.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud Wednesday heard extensive arguments from senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing on behalf of the petitioners.

The Bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B.R. Gavai, and Surya Kant, will resume hearing the case tomorrow from 10:30 am onwards. A total of 18 counsels are presenting arguments on behalf of various petitioners.

Abdullah, who was accompanied by Member of Parliament Justice (retired) Hasnain Masoodi, said that they tried explaining to the bench their perspective of what happened on 5 August 2019 and their expectations from the top court.

“The CJI and his associate judge also raised several questions. This is all about the Constitution. Whatever happened on 5th August 2019 was against the constitution of the country and J-K. We hope that the SC sees this from our perspective,” Abdullah said.

Before the hearing commenced, Abdullah said: “We are here on behalf of the people of J&K with the hope that we can prove that what happened on August 5, 2019, was unconstitutional and illegal”.

Mehbooba Mufti, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, said the entire world was watching the Supreme Court hear the petitions challenging the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, and “will get to decide whether India has to run as per constitution or the agenda of a particular party”.

“The entire world is watching the SC hearing. Prior to the 2019 elections, India was run as per the Constitution. Now, India is being run as per the agenda of a party, which could illegally abrogate the constitutional guarantees provided to the people of J-K. The SC needs to see if India has to run as per the constitution or the agenda of a party,” Mufti, the last chief minister of J-K, told reporters at a press conference in Srinagar.

She said all the institutions of the country had been subverted. “It’s only the SC that can save the constitution now. It’s not easy for the SC given what is happening in the country. It remains to be seen if the SC is ready to take risks. We saw that when the Allahabad court gave a judgment against Indira Gandhi [in 1975],” Mufti said.

She said the people of Jammu and Kashmir, despite being a Muslim-majority State in 1947, rejected the two-nation theory and joined hands with democratic and secular India.

“We have a distinct identity. We believe that the distinct identity has been safeguarded by the Constitution through Article 370. It was a beautiful example of India’s federal structure. Then in 2019, this relationship was done away with illegally,” Mufti said.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, president of the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), expressed his gratitude towards Sibal for eloquently presenting the crucial issue of Article 370 in the Supreme Court today.

“Gratitude for the brilliant efforts of @KapilSibal sahib as he fearlessly & eloquently presented the crucial issue of #Article370 in SC today. We have been unwaveringly fighting from Parliament to the Supreme Court, in pursuit of justice for the people of J&K.(sic),” Azad tweeted.

Almost 23 petitions have been filed by lawyers, politicians challenging the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August 2019. (With inputs from agencies)

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