Full statehood to J&K will take some time, ready for elections any time, Centre tells SC 

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It was day 12 of the hearing. A batch of petitions contesting the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir's "special status" are being heard by a Constitution bench

The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the restoration of full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir will take some time, even though it is ready to hold elections anytime now over there.

Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta refrained from giving a specific timeframe on restoring full statehood for J&K and highlighted on steps being taken, including investments, employment and inflow of tourists.

A five-judge constitution bench led by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and comprising Justices S K Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai, and Surya Kant, took on record the statement but clarified that the challenge constitutional validity of dilution of Article 370 of the Constitution would be decided upon its own merits.

Responding to the query made by the top court on August 29, Mehta submitted that the central government is ready for elections in J&K anytime now. He said that updating of voters list was going on and substantial work had been completed and final call has to be taken by the Election Commission and state poll panel. 

Mehta said district development council elections have already taken place and now the panchayat elections will be held shortly. Mehta said Leh Hill Development Council elections are over and that elections for Kargil will be held in September.

Mehta municipality elections will follow these elections, and third elections will be for legislative assembly. 

However, the Centre said though steps to revert J&K into a state have already been implemented gradually, it cannot give an exact time frame for restoration of statehood of J&K.

Mehta said terrorist incidents have been reduced by 45%, infiltration by 90.2%, security personnel casualty by 65.9%, law and order incidents by 97.2% and stone pelting reduced by 97% when compared to previous years. These are important parameters for holding elections, said Mehta.

Mehta said in 2018, the stone pelting incidents were recorded 1767, which have been reduced to nil now and not just because of effective policing and security personnel but because of various steps such as gainful employment of youth etc. The youth were misled by secessionist forces, he said.

He also said 1.88 Cr tourists have visited J&K till the time.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for petitioners, contended these factors can't be considered while determining constitutional validity of dilution of Article 370 on August 5-6, 2019.

On August 5th, Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated by the Central Government vide a Presidential Order which revoked the "special status" of Jammu & Kashmir. 

The President issued The Constitution (Application to Jammu And Kashmir) Order, 2019 CO 272 replacing the words ‘Constituent Assembly’ from Article 370(3) with ‘Legislative Assembly [of Jammu & Kashmir]’. A Statutory Resolution was introduced by Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha which abrogated Article 370 as the state of under president's rule. Finally, on the next day, the Parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019  bifurcating the State into two Union Territories -Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. 

A saga of petitions were filed challenging this move by the Centre, after which it was first taken up on August 28, 2019 by a bench led by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, who referred the case to a five-judge bench. A five judge bench led by former CJI NV Ramana referred it to a Constitution bench on October 1, 2019. 

The court is hearing the case vide a Constitution bench of CJI DY Chandrachud, Justices SK Kaul, Sanjib Khanna, BR Gavai and Surya Kant since July 11, 2023.

Get the latest news from the Supreme Court hearing on Article 370 abrogation | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12

Case Title: In re Article 370 of the Constitution