SOCIAL activist Tehseen Poonawalla today approached the Supreme Court with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition seeking the withdrawal of curfew and other restrictions, including blocking of phone lines, internet and news channels in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in the aftermath of the President’s order abrogating the special status accorded to J&K.
Poonawalla has also prayed for the immediate release of all political leaders who have been taken into illegal custody since August 4, 2019. He has also requested the court to appoint ajudicial commission to visit the newly carved union territory, ascertain the ground situation and file a status report before the apex court.
The petition was mentioned before Justice N V Ramana since the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and the next senior-most judge, Justice S A Bobde were engaged in the Constitution Bench hearing the Ayodhya matter. Justice Ramana declined to list the petition for urgent hearing, but said the petition could be placed before CJI Gogoi for passing an appropriate order for listing the petition.
The petitioner has asserted that imposing undeclared curfew and other restrictions, arbitrary arrests, shutdown of phone services and the snapping of internet and cable news networks amounted to a suspension of Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
“It is unfortunate that the entire State of J&K, is under a virtual cordon. In fact, there has been no news of any kind of protest; be it organized or otherwise in reference to the constitutional amendments or for any other reason.
“Arrest of separatist leaders is totally justifiable but meting out the same treatment and arresting mainstream political leaders who have fought for the integration of J&K along with Union of India is highly questionable,” Poonawalla said in his petition.
On August 5, 2019, the President issued an order called “The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019” which in effect made Article 370, according to special status to Jammu and Kashmir, redundant.
The Union Home Minister Amit Shah had moved a resolution in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabhato this effect. It read as follows:
“That this House recommends the following public notification to be issued by the President of India under Article 370 (3):
‘In exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (3) of Article 370 read with clause (1) of article 370 of the Constitution of India, the President, on the recommendation of the Parliament, is pleased to declare that, as from 5th of August, 2019, all clauses of the said article 370 shall cease to be operative except clause (1) thereof which shall read as under, namely:
“All provisions of this Constitution, as amended from time to time, without any modifications or exceptions, shall apply to the State of Jammu and Kashmir notwithstanding anything contrary contained in article 152 or article 308 or any other article of this Constitution or any other provision of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir or any law, document, judgement, ordinance, order, byelaw, rule, regulation, notification, custom or usage having the force of law in the territory of India, or any other instrument, treaty or agreement as envisaged under article 363 or otherwise.”
The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind on August 6, 2019, signed an order declaring that all clauses of Article 370 of the Constitution of India would cease to be operative from August 6, 2019.
The Parliament also passed “The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019”, seeking to bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir by forming two new union territories – the Union Territory of Ladakh comprising “Kargil and Leh districts” and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir comprising the territories of the existing State of Jammu and Kashmir other than Kargil and Leh.