Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday poured scorn on Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for claiming Article 370 of the Indian Constitution will be never restored, asking him not to presume what the Supreme Court would decide of the matter.
A batch of petitions, challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 last year, remains undecided before the Supreme Court for over a year now.
On Saturday, Prasad had asserted that Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 will not be restored as it was revoked following constitutional procedures, adding that both Houses of the Parliament had approved it with overwhelming numbers. “Revoking it [Article 370] was our commitment to the country and people have appreciated it,” Prasad said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader made the assertions in response to Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti’s decision to not raise the tricolour till the flag of Jammu and Kashmir flag is restored.
Abdullah on Sunday hit back and said he did not expect the Union minister to restore anything anyway. “Dear Ravi Shankar Prasad ji, we don’t expect you to restore anything but unless you are suggesting the Supreme Court has surrendered its independence and takes dictation from you please don’t presume to know what the Honourable judges will decide,” the National Conference leader tweeted.
A petition by National Conference leaders challenging the abrogation was filed before the Supreme Court on August 10, 2019. The other petitioners in the case include non-governmental organisation People’s Union of Civil Liberties and the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association. A year on, the matter remains undecided. Even to decide the preliminary matter of whether the petitions ought to be referred to a larger bench, the Supreme Court took 205 days. It was last listed on March 2 and has not been listed since, with no next date reflecting on the court’s website.
The mainstream political leadership of Kashmir has recently renewed its pledge to oppose the sweeping changes made to the region last year. Beside Article 370, the government had repealed Article 35A, the law which empowered the state’s legislative Assembly to define “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir and reserve for them certain rights, such as the right to hold government jobs and own land in the state. It had also split the state into two Union Territories – Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir, and imposed a lockdown in the entire region.
On Friday, during her first press conference following her release, Mufti had criticised the revocation of Article 370 and said that Parliament had no power to take it away. “A robber may be mighty, but he has to return the stolen goods,” she said, adding that this “dictatorship” will not go on for long.
She had also slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his comments on Article 370 during his rally in Bihar ahead of the state Assembly elections. Mufti had claimed that the prime minister brought up the topic to get votes as he did not want to discuss real problems.
Hours after her comments, the BJP had called Mufti’s remarks “seditious” and said that she should be “put behind bars”.
On October 18, parties in Jammu and Kashmir that are signatories to the “Gupkar Declaration” formally announced the formation of an alliance to “constitutionally fight” for the restoration of the erstwhile state’s special status.
Under the Gupkar Declaration, regional parties and the Congress resolved to protect Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status and fight against any move to dilute it.
Top leaders of these parties met at the residence of National Conference President Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar, and reaffirmed their commitment to fight unitedly for the rights of people which were “unconstitutionally snatched” on August 5 last year.
On Saturday, Farooq Abdullah was unanimously chosen as the chairperson of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.