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India's top court upholds government's move to strip Kashmir of special status

India's top court upholds government's move to strip Kashmir of special status

By Anadolu Agency 

 

NEW DELHI - 

India's top court on Monday upheld the legality of legislation passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in 2019 that stripped the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region of its standing as a state, as well as its special status.

"We hold the exercise of presidential power to issue constitutional order abrogating Article 370 of Constitution as valid," said the Supreme Court's constitution bench, led by Chief Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud.

"All provisions of the Indian Constitution can be applied to Jammu and Kashmir," it added.

The top court asked the government to hold local elections by September next year.

Chandrachud said: "Whether Jammu and Kashmir retained an element of sovereignty or internal sovereignty when it joined the Union of India. We have held 'no'."

The court in September had finished hearing arguments on a slew of petitions challenging the legality of the legislation passed by Modi’s government in 2019 which ended special status of the region, divided it into to two Union Territories, run by an official appointed by New Delhi.

Several individuals, groups, and political parties had filed nearly 20 petitions at the apex court, calling the decision unconstitutional.

The judge said Jammu and Kashmir's Constituent Assembly "was never intended to be permanent body."

"Article 370, which was abrogated on August 5, 2019, was an interim arrangement due to war conditions in the erstwhile state," Chandrachud remarked.

The Supreme Court also backed government's decision to divide and carve out Ladakh Union Territory from Jammu and Kashmir region.

However, without giving any timeframe, the court asked the Modi government to restore the statehood of the region at the "earliest" and "and as soon as possible."

Delivering the verdict, one of the justices, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, recommended setting up an "impartial Truth and Reconciliation committee" to investigate and report on "violations of human rights both by the State and non-state actors at least since 1980s and recommend measures for reconciliation."

"It is for the government to decide the manner in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission must be set up, considering the sensitivities of the issues involved," he said.

Modi welcomed the decision.

"I want to assure the resilient people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh that our commitment to fulfilling your dreams remains unwavering. We are determined to ensure that the fruits of progress not only reach you but also extend their benefits to the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of our society who suffered due to Article 370," he said on X.

Claims of arrest

Meanwhile, the former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, claimed that they were put under house arrest by police ahead of Indian top court's decision.

Mufti's People's Democratic Party said the police had sealed the doors of her residence.

However, current Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said that all the claims were "baseless."

"In entire Jammu and Kashmir, no one has been put under house arrest or arrest. This is an attempt to spread rumors," Sinha said.

To this, Omar Abdullah, leader of National Conference party, said on X that the gate to his home had been locked shut, implying that authorities were responsible.

The "chains that have been put on my gate have not been put by me so why are you denying what your police force has done," he said.

"It's also possible you don't even know what your police is doing? Which one is it? Are you being dishonest or is your police acting independent of you?" he said.

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