FORMER CHIEF Minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and vice-president of J&K National Conference Omar Abdullah Friday said the Supreme Court needs to immediately step in to hear and decide the petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A on the lines of its recent intervention on the farm laws.
“It is not like the Supreme Court is not working at all. We have seen the Supreme Court take cognizance of what is happening with the farmer protests and step into those. If the farmer protests can invite the attention of the Supreme Court and their observations can include words that ‘this did not seem to include any consultation’ … then there were no consultations with J&K before what happened on 5th of August, 2019. By that same yardstick of consultation, then the Supreme Court needs to step in with what happened in J&K and start hearing us out and let the weight of our arguments make up their minds,” said Abdullah during the Idea Exchange programme at The Indian Express (detailed transcript to be published Monday).
A bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had issued notices on August 29, 2019, on the petitions relating to J&K and referred it to a five-judge bench chaired by Justice NV Ramana. The five-judge bench took up the matters on October 1, 2019, but some raised the point that these should be referred to a seven-judge bench. This prayer was rejected on March 2, 2020. But due to Covid-19 and the subsequent national lockdown, hearing of almost every major case involving constitutional questions has remained pending.
Omar Abdullah, however, said he will have to trust the Supreme Court when it made the observation that it can turn back the clock when it comes to changes made to the law pertaining to J&K, but said he feels that it will reach a point where it will be impossible to undo some of the changes.
“The time will end up being of the essence. You cannot have indefinite period of domicile being changed or land laws having been affected or cadre of J&K administrative services and police officers being changed or forest services officers being changed and similar changes being put into place and then turn around and say all this can be undone …. because somebody will say so much water has flown in the Jhelum that we will now have to accept this as the new reality… which is not what we are willing to accept,” said Abdullah.
While commenting on the lack of 4G connectivity in majority of J&K’s districts, the detentions of political leaders like PDP leader Naeem Akhtar and travel restrictions on the mainstream leaders, Abdullah said, “Which fundamental rights do we have today? None. You do not enjoy the right to free speech. You do not enjoy the right to free movement… and for the BJP, this is normal. I guess this is the Jammu and Kashmir that was carved out and they are telling us it is normal and learn to live with it… which, I am sorry, I am not willing to do.”