A five-judge Supreme Court Constitution Bench on Tuesday granted the Centre four weeks to file its response to a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of Constitution, reported Bar and Bench. The Constitution Bench will hear the matter next on November 14.

When the bench assembled, Attorney General KK Venugopal sought more time to file a response. However, the petitioners opposed this request. Senior Counsel Raju Ramachandran pointed out that the bifurcation of the state, approved by Parliament on August 5, would come into effect on October 31. “The process will be irreversible and the petitions must not be rendered infructuous,” he told the court, according to Bar and Bench.

On Monday, the court had postponed the hearings by a day, and said the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi did not have the time to hear the pleas. “We have the Constitution Bench case [Ayodhya dispute] to hear,” Gogoi said.

The pleas have challenged the communication blockade in the state, the alleged illegal detention of children, and the impact of restrictions on healthcare.

The various petitions

Three petitions against the security clampdown have been filed by advocates ML Sharma, Shakir Shabir and Soyaib Qureshi. Sharma was the first petitioner to challenge the presidential order the government used to hollow out Article 370. Shabir, in his plea, contended that the order amending Article 367 was unconstitutional and void from inception. Such an amendment could only have been carried out by Parliament, he claimed. Qureshi, in his petition, said the controversial amendments could not have been effected without the concurrence and consent of the Jammu and Kashmir government and the state legislature.

National Conference Lok Sabha members Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi have filed a petition under Article 32 of Constitution, which allows the Supreme Court to issue any order to protect the fundamental rights of citizens. According to them, the presidential order was “unconstitutional, void and inoperative” in the state.

Child rights experts Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha have filed a plea seeking clarity about reports of children being illegally detained by security forces. They have alleged that they could not file a plea in the High Court because the shutdown and restrictions on public movement.

On September 20, the Supreme Court assigned Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s Juvenile Justice Committee to inquire into their allegations. The chairperson of the committee, Justice Ali Mohammad Magray, visited the observation home and said only four boys below the age of 18 were detained by the police after August 5, according to a news report.

A group of former defence personnel and bureaucrats, who have served in Jammu and Kashmir, have also challenged the Narendra Modi government’s decisions. They said the amendment to Article 370 did not have the sanction of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and struck at the heart of the principles on which the state was integrated into India.

A habeas corpus petition has been filed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, challenging the validity of the revocation of the state’s special status. The Supreme Court asked the Centre to file its reply, and suggested that the case should be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

The Supreme Court asked another petitioner to approach the Jammu and High Court with his plea seeking restoration of high-speed internet services and landline phones across all hospitals and medical establishments in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Centre has filed a counter affidavit in the petition of Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin who has challenged the restrictions on journalists in the Valley, reported ANI. In her affidavit, Bhasin had claimed that the “information blackhole” in the Kashmir Valley was still continuing. In an additional affidavit on September 4, Bhasin had said that despite the administration’s claims that restrictions were being withdrawn, movement of journalists in Srinagar was being curbed.

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