New Delhi: Even though Kashmir has been under lockdown for 58 days with reports of extreme distress and violence faced by ordinary people in the Valley, the Centre is yet to file affidavits in the Supreme Court in reply to several petitions challenging the abrogation of Article 370, according to a report in LiveLaw.
This came to be known on the day when the Supreme Court put off hearing on a number of petitions, referring all those to a constitution bench and posting these for hearing on Tuesday, citing the Ayodhya matter on which daily hearing are underway.
"We do not have the time to hear so many matters. We have Constitution bench case (Ayodhya dispute) to hear," Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi was quoted as saying by India Today.
The bench that will hear all the petitions is headed by N V Ramana and also comprises justices S K Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant
At a time when the issue of Kashmir is seeing protests in the Valley everyday and has even become a matter of concern internationally on various fora, including the United Nations, the Centre’s non-filing of its response has not gone down too well with many in the legal fraternity.
Senior advocate Gautam Bhatia, while commenting on the Centre’s reluctance to file an affidavit in the apex court even after 58 days of lockdown, told LiveLaw:
“The Supreme Court has often said that we live in a culture of justification, where the acts of State must be explained and justified to citizens, and specially to those whose lives they impact. This is particularly important where rights have been infringed, because it is necessary for the government's justification to be tested by a court of law. By failing to put its reasons on record, the government is stymying constitutional accountability. The court should not indulge it any further".
The various petitions in the Supreme Court have raised matters such as restrictions on the movement of journalists in Kashmir and illegal detention of minors in the Valley, questioning the constitutional validity of the Presidential order on Article 370, taking away state status from J&K and bifurcation of the state into two Union territories.
The petitions have been filed by the National Conference, the Sajjad Lone-led JK Peoples Conference and several other individuals, such as Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, journalist Anuradha Bhasin and advocate M L Sharma.
The NC plea was filed by Lok Sabha MPs Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also refused to further entertain Rajya Sabha MP Vaiko's plea seeking former J&K chief minister Farooq Abdullah's production before it and said the MDMK leader could challenge the NC leader's detention order under the Public Safety Act.
"He (Abdullah) is under detention under the Public Safety Act," a bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi told Vaiko's counsel.
The MDMK leader's counsel questioned the conduct of the Jammu and Kashmir administration and claimed that a few minutes before the scheduled hearing in the apex court on September 16, Abdullah was detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.
The bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer, said the petitioner could challenge the detention order against Abdullah under the J&K Public Safety Act before the appropriate authority.
Abdullah, 81, a three-time former chief minister of the state and a five-time parliamentarian, has been detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.
(with inputs from PTI)