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India’s Supreme Court says decision to remove Kashmir’s special status constitutionally valid

India’s Supreme Court said on Monday that the government’s decision to revoke the special status previously granted to Jammu and Kashmir was in accordance with the constitution.

Giving its verdict on the petitions challenging the revocation of Article 370 – which granted the region of Kashmir special status – the apex court upheld the 2019 presidential orders in a unanimous verdict. The court stated that Kashmir’s special status was a temporary provision.

The court also directed the Election Commission to hold elections in Kashmir by 30 September 2024.

On 5 August 2019, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government revoked Article 370 and put Jammu and Kashmir under a communications blockade which lasted months. Kashmiri separatist leaders and mainstream politicians were thrown behind bars just before home minister Amit Shah announced the revocation of Article 370 in Indian parliament.

The former state of Jammu and Kashmir was further divided into federal territories.

On Monday, the court said that the reorganisation of J&K into federal territories in 2019 was a temporary measure and instructed the government to work towards reinstating statehood.

A five-judge bench, presided by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, had reserved its verdict on the matter on 5 September.

Mr Chandrachud said: “Court cannot sit in appeal over the decision of the President of India on whether the special circumstances under Article 370 exist. History shows the gradual process of constitutional integration was not going on. It was not as if after 70 years Constitution of India was applied in one go. It was a culmination of the integration process.”

He read out the judgement: “Jammu and Kashmir did not retain any sovereignty after accession to India. Though there are limitations on the president’s actions following the imposition of president’s rule, in this instance, they are valid.”

Prime minister Narendra Modi called the verdict “historic”.

He wrote on X/Twitter: “Today’s Supreme Court verdict on the abrogation of Article 370 is historic and constitutionally upholds the decision taken by the parliament of India on 5th August 2019”.

“It is a resounding declaration of hope, progress and unity for our sisters and brothers in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

“It is a beacon of hope, a promise of a brighter future and a testament to our collective resolve to build a stronger, more united India,” he said. He used the hashtag “nayajammukashmir” after his message, naya referring to “new”.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul suggested establishing a Truth and Reconciliation committee to examine and document human rights violations committed by both the State and non-state actors, spanning back to the 1980s. He recommended that the committee also propose measures for reconciliation.

Ahead of the Supreme Court’s verdict, two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were reportedly placed under house arrest.

However, lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha claimed that no one has been placed under house detention and that “it is an attempt to spread rumours”. The local police also tweeted: “No person has been put under house arrest.”

Mr Abdullah shared photos of the main gate of his house in Srinagar, revealing that the gate was heavily chained. He wrote on X: “Dear Mr LG these chains that have been put on my gate have not been put by me so why are you denying what your police force has done. It’s also possible you don’t even know what your police is doing? Which one is it? Are you being dishonest or is your police acting independent of you?”

Official X/Twitter handle of Ms Mufti’s party, People’s Democratic Party [PDP] wrote on the social media platform earlier in the day: “Even before Supreme Court judgement is pronounced, Police has sealed the doors of the residence of PDP President @MehboobaMufti and put her under illegal house arrest.”

She told the Indian Express: “Yes, all the gates (of my residence) have been locked.”