Delhi, 07 July (CNI): The Supreme Court of India is likely to start the hearing of a batch of petitions challenging the dilution of Article 370 in August, although the cases have been listed on July 11.
Justice BR Gavai revealed this while hearing activist Teesta Setalvad’s bail.
When Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal – appearing for Setalvad – suggested that the hearing in her petition may be scheduled in August, Justice Gavai replied, “It will be too late because we will begin hearing the challenge against Article 370.”
“I thought it was going to begin on July 11,” Sibal responded.
“That is only for directions. Tentatively, we will be starting in August,” Justice Gavai informed the senior counsel.
As per the causelist, the matters are listed “for directions” on July 11, which means that posting is for completing the procedural formalities, such as the filing of the documents and submissions, setting out the order of arguments and allocation of time. Usually, the bench appoints a “nodal counsel” from both the sides who will be responsible for ensuring that the compilation of documents are final for the reference of bench and the parties.
A constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud is set to hear a bunch of pleas challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution which stripped the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and led to its bifurcation into the union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, in 2019. The five-judge bench also comprises Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, and Surya Kant. These petitions – listed on July 11 – have been posted for the first time after March 2, 2020, when another constitution bench ruled that it would not be necessary to refer the matter to a seven-judge bench.
The hearing had started in December 2019, within four months from the date on which the Centre notified the repeal of Article 370 and the reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the judgement holding that the issues involved in the pleas could be decided by a five-judge combination, the matter was not listed – till now.
However, it has been mentioned before the Chief Justice of India on several occasions. In April 2022, the then-chief justice NV Ramana had refused to provide a definitive answer when it was mentioned. In September of the same year, Chief Justice UU Lalit agreed to list the petitions, but his tenure was short-lived. His successor and the incumbent Chief Justice Chandrachud expressed his inclination to list the matter on two separate occasions.
Justices NV Ramana and Subhash Reddy – who were on the last constitution bench that dealt with this matter – have already retired. Therefore, while Justices Kaul, Gavai, and Kant were members of the previous five-judge bench, Chief Justice Chandrachud and Justice Sanjiv Khanna have joined to fill the vacancies.