The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Valley status plea put off

New Delhi, Sept. 26: The Supreme Court has postponed the hearings of a petition seeking to scrap Article 370, the constitutional provision conferring special status on Jammu and Kashmir.

A bench of Justices Ruma Pal and P. Venkatarama Reddy fixed the hearing after the court’s puja vacation following a request from petitioner Balraj Madhok, former president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. However, the court did not specify a date.

This is the first time that the “temporary provision” is being challenged in the apex court with successive governments failing to do away with it, Madhok’s counsel R.V. Bhasin said.

The hearings might open the proverbial Pandora’s box as Madhok argued that the provision had “outlived” its utility and was only meant for annexing Jammu and Kashmir to India.

The heading to Article 370 reads “temporary provisions with respect to the state of Jammu and Kashmir”, the petitioner said, but it does not define the temporary period of time which is why it continues to exist.

Madhok sought a direction to the Union government to “fix” a period and abrogate the article after it is over.

The petition contended that the article “is contrary to the basic structure of the Constitution”. Providing special status to a state would violate the Constitution’s “equality” clause, it added.

“There cannot be discriminatory treatment between 500 princely states on one side and the state of J&K on the other side,” the petition said.

“The existence of Article 370 in the Constitution has created more trouble in Kashmir,” Madhok said in his petition. “It is absolutely essential for normality in the state to bring it along with other states, which cannot be done without permitting the citizens of India to purchase or acquire properties in J&K and permitting the free flow of business.”

Bhasin contended that under the Constitution, the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are allowed to reside, settle and purchase property anywhere in the country but Article 370 prohibits people from other parts of India cannot purchase or acquire property in the Valley. He said it violates the fundamental right under Article 14 enshrining “equality before law and equal application of law” for all the citizens of the country.

The petitioner also submitted that several migrants to the state since 1947 have not been allowed to vote in the local and Assembly elections and the “fundamental rights of a large section of Indian people living in J&K have been denied for more than 50 years”.

He sought a direction to declare that “inclusion and continuation of Article 370 in the Constitution is against the spirit of the Constitution itself” and quash the separate Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir as violative of the Constitution of India.

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