Editorial: Legal lines

The Supreme Court on Monday said there are no reasons to refer a batch of pleas, challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 on 5 August last year, to a larger seven-judge bench.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice N V Ramana pronounced the order. The apex court had on 23 January reserved its order on the issue of whether the batch of pleas would be referred to a larger seven-judge bench.

NGO People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association and an intervenor had sought referring the matter to a larger bench.

The petitioners sought reference to a larger bench on the ground that two judgments of the Supreme 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 are in direct conflict each other and therefore the current bench of five judges could not hear the issue.  Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General KK Venugopal had told the Supreme Court bench — also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant — that ‘the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, has now become a ‘fait accompli’ leaving sole option to accept the change’.

Referring to the two earlier judgments, Venugopal had said that they were not related to each other and dealt with different issues. The SC agreed with the contention of the Centre and J&K administration that there was no inconsistency between the decisions of the apex court in Prem Nath Kaul and Sampat Prakash cases.

‘The Constitution bench in the Prem Nath Kaul case did not discuss the continuation or cessation of the operation of Article 370 of the Constitution after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly of the state. This was not an issue in question before the court, unlike in the Sampat Prakash case where the contention was specifically made before, and refuted by, the court. This court sees no reason to read into the Prem Nath Kaul case an interpretation, which results in it being in conflict with subsequent judgments of this court, particularly when an ordinary reading of the judgment does not result in such an interpretation,’ the bench said.

The order is welcome.

NT Bureau