In a significant development during the ongoing Article 370 hearing, the Supreme Court of India was apprised of a contentious episode within the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Assembly in 2018. The Centre, the J&K administration, and various respondents collectively revealed that Mohammad Akbar Lone, a prominent leader of the National Conference party and a petitioner in the case at hand, had vociferously articulated slogans, including the contentious ‘Pakistan Zindabad.’
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, assuming a central role in the proceedings, unequivocally demanded that Mr. Lone undertake a solemn affidavit pledging unwavering allegiance to the Indian Constitution. Such a declaration, he contended, is imperative to forestall the potential catalysis of secessionist sentiments or actions, which, in turn, could gravely compromise the extensive national endeavors aimed at the restoration of normalcy.
Notably, Mehta apprised the distinguished Constitution Bench, chaired by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, that but for the court’s exercise of assigning the case a generic title, ‘In Re Article 370 of the Constitution,’ subsequent to Shah Faesal’s withdrawal, Mr. Lone would have naturally assumed the mantle of the principal petitioner.
The Centre’s previous articulation of its incapacity to furnish a precise timeframe for the reinstatement of full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, presently categorized as a Union Territory, was reiterated during these proceedings. However, it was emphasized that the region stands fully prepared to facilitate elections expeditiously.
While Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, an eminent representative of the petitioners, challenged the statistical assertions presented by the Centre concerning the normalization status in the region, Chief Justice Chandrachud underscored that the adjudication of this case would pivot exclusively on constitutional elucidations, eschewing reliance on empirical data.
The monumental decision of August 5, 2019, wherein the Indian government resolutely revoked the exceptional status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir via the abrogation of Article 370, ushering in its bifurcation into two Union Territories, marked a watershed moment. The subsequent influx of petitions contesting the abrogation and the enactment of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, precipitated their referral to a Constitution Bench in 2019.
The unfolding proceedings promise to be riveting, as the Supreme Court diligently navigates the intricacies of this historic constitutional conundrum.