The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the sovereignty of Jammu and Kashmir was temporary, reported Bar and Bench. It added that the most important thing was always the consolidation of the country. Attorney General KK Venugopal, who is representing the Centre in the case, also argued that there was no question of a plebiscite in light of the “explicit declarations of Jammu and Kashmir to be an integral part of India in their own Constitution”.
The court is hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which splits the state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The five-judge Constitution bench comprises of Justices NV Ramana, SK Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
The attorney general claimed that separatists were trained and sent by Pakistan to create havoc in Kashmir. “The Maharaja had entered into a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan and Pakistan had in fact violated this,” said Venugopal. “Truckloads of tribesmen trained in combat were sent by Pakistan to overtake the state. Maharaja had asked for the aid of India due to the insurgents present in the state. There were criminal activities taking place and records even suggest that these separatists trained by Pakistan had been specially sent to create havoc.”
Venugopal read out an excerpt from VP Menon’s book ‘Integration of the Indian States’. “The purpose for this story of integration of the Indian states is to show the consolidation of the country,” said Venugopal, according to the Hindustan Times. “I want to show that the sovereignty of J&K was indeed temporary. We are a Union of States.”
He added that Article 370 only brought out the legislative powers of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He cited the judgement in the 2017 case of Santosh Gupta. “It is thus clear that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has no vestige of sovereignty outside the Constitution of India and its own Constitution, which is subordinate to the Constitution of India,” Venugopal added.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said it will refer the Centre’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution to a seven-judge Constitution bench only if there was a conflict in the earlier two verdicts of the top court. The court asked petitioners to prove a direct conflict between the two judgements by Thursday.
During the hearing on Wednesday, senior advocates Dinesh Dwivedi and Sanjay Parikh, appearing for Prem Shankar Jha and non-governmental organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties respectively, told the bench that the earlier verdicts were conflicting in nature. They had referred to rulings more than 50 years old by five-judge benches in the Prem Nath Kaul and Sampat Prakash case. They said the top court had said Parliament could not change the character of Article 370, which gave special status to the state, as it was in the form of a constitutional obligation that arose from the instrument of accession signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir.
Venugopal on Thursday argued that there was no conflict in both the judgements, and hence the matter should not be referred to a larger bench. “In the Prem Nath Kaul judgement of 1959, these were the specific words used: ‘On 25.10.1947, the Maharaja signed an Instrument of Accession with India which had then become an independent Dominion’,” said Venugopal.
On Tuesday, Dwivedi had said that Article 370 of the Constitution was the only “tunnel of light” that maintained the relationship between the Centre and the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. “The Article 370 required that action of government of India should have concurrence of Jammu and Kashmir constituent assembly, which was dissolved in 1957 after framing the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir,” he had added.