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No need to refer pleas challenging Govt’s Article 370 move to larger bench, rules SC’s 5-Judge Bench

Legal News, Nation, (New Delhi), March 2:-The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a plea to refer a batch of pleas, challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s decision of August 5 last year to abrogate provisions of Article 370, to a larger seven-judge bench and ruled that a five-judge bench was competent to hear the case.

Ruling that a larger bench not required, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice NV Ramana held that there was no conflict between two previous judgments of the apex court – Prem Nath Kaul versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1959 and Sampat Prakash versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1970 – which dealt with the issue of Article 370.

The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, had on January 23 reserved its order on this issue.

NGO People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, and an intervenor had sought to refer the matter to a larger bench on the ground that two judgments were in direct conflict with each other and, therefore, the current bench of five judges could not hear the issue, but the Centre had opposed the plea.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had told the court that “the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, has now become a ‘fait accompli’ leaving the sole option to accept the change”.

Referring to the two earlier judgments, Venugopal had said they were not related to each other and dealt with different issues. He had said the verdict in Prem Nath Kaul versus Jammu and Kashmir did not deal with Article 370, rather with the question whether the Maharaja had the legislative power or not.

While referring to the verdict in Sampat Prakash versus Jammu and Kashmir, Venugopal had said though it dealt with some aspects of Article 370, it was not in direct conflict with the verdict in the Kaul case and so the present issue should not be referred to a larger bench.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir administration, had said he adopts the arguments of the Attorney General and favours no reference to a larger bench.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, had said he supports the Centre on the question that no reference is needed to a larger bench.

A number of petitions have been filed in the apex court including those of private individuals, lawyers, activists and political parties and they have also challenged the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which splits J&K into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

-(NAV, Inputs: Agencies)

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