By Sher Bano
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court of India, upholding the central government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, has reignited a profound debate on the intricate facets surrounding this move. Following this judgment, a thorough examination of the legal, political, and humanitarian dimensions becomes imperative to highlight the inherent flaws in the decision.
The Supreme Court’s endorsement of the government’s choice to annul Article 370 is grounded in several contentions, each necessitating scrupulous scrutiny. Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, joined by Justices Gavai and Surya Kant, asserted that Jammu & Kashmir lacks internal sovereignty distinct from other states, oversimplifying the region’s intricate historical and geopolitical context.
Furthermore, the court upheld the creation of Ladakh as a separate union territory, a decision within the administrative purview that warrants closer examination due to its potential impact on the cultural and historical ties within the region.
The directive to conduct assembly elections in Jammu & Kashmir by September 30 next year, alongside the call for the restoration of statehood, raises questions about the ambiguity surrounding the timeline for such significant political changes. The lack of clarity on these matters contributes to the uncertainty shrouding the region’s future political landscape.
Chief Justice Chandrachud’s characterization of Article 370 as an interim arrangement due to war conditions in the erstwhile state raises concerns. Disregarding the unique circumstances and aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir undermines the principles of justice and fairness. Justice SK Kaul’s concurrence with the Chief Justice’s judgment reinforces this perspective, emphasizing that Article 370 was intended to gradually bring the region on par with other Indian states.
The assertion that the principle of consultation was not required during the exercise of presidential power departs from fundamental democratic tenets. Consultation is integral to democratic decision-making, and sidelining it in such a significant decision sets a concerning precedent.
Chief Justice Chandrachud’s argument that every decision of the central government cannot be subject to legal challenge raises valid concerns. While efficiency is crucial, unchecked executive power can lead to potential misuse, jeopardizing the principles of accountability and transparency foundational to a democratic system.
The Supreme Court’s reliance on historical documents, such as the proclamation of Maharaja and the Instrument of Accession, to justify the abrogation of Article 370 is open to interpretation. The emphasis on textual reading and the classification of Article 370 as a temporary provision raises questions about the nuanced understanding of the region’s historical context.
The circumstances surrounding the pronouncement of the verdict are noteworthy. The Supreme Court bench assembled to deliver three separate and concurring judgments, with Justices Kaul and Khanna providing individual opinions. The differing interpretations by the justices underscore the complexity and divisiveness of the issue.
Even before the final verdict, the reported house arrest of political figures like Mehbooba Mufti and restrictions on journalists near the residences of prominent leaders raise concerns about freedom of expression and political dissent. A thriving democracy necessitates open dialogue and diverse opinions, and such restrictions undermine these principles.
Pakistan’s swift rejection of the judgment, citing the non-recognition of India’s actions in Jammu & Kashmir under international law, adds a geopolitical layer to the controversy. The assertion that India cannot make unilateral decisions on the disputed territory without considering the will of the Kashmiri people and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions is echoed by many in the international community.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani’s said that India claiming alterations to the demographic and political landscape of Kashmir since August 2019, underscore broader concerns about the impact of India’s decisions on the region. Jilani’s call for rescinding these measures for peace and dialogue is a plea for a more diplomatic and inclusive approach.
In conclusion, the recent Supreme Court verdict on Article 370, while legally binding, invites scrutiny for its potential long-term consequences. The dismissal of internal sovereignty, ambiguity in statehood restoration, and perceived violations of democratic principles warrant a nuanced examination. As the geopolitical landscape evolves, a balanced approach that respects the region’s historical context and addresses the concerns raised by various stakeholders is essential for lasting stability and justice in Jammu & Kashmir.