After Art 370 verdict, Cong demands immediate elections in J&K, full statehood

New Delhi, Dec 11 (PTI) The Congress on Monday demanded immediate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and said assembly elections should be held there immediately to enable people to elect a government of their choice.

The party’s reaction came after the SC unanimously upheld the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 that bestowed special status on the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and directed restoration of statehood “at the earliest” as well as holding elections to the assembly by September 30 next year.

Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Abhishek Singhvi said the judgement of the Supreme Court in cases concerning the abrogation of Artitcle 370 has decided many issues, but has left some.

The Judgement needs a careful study, Chidambaram said at the joint press conference here, noting “prima facie we respectfully disagree with judgment on the manner in which Art 370 was abrogated”.

He said the Congress has always demanded restoration of full statehood of J and K and “we welcome the SC verdict in this regard”.

“Full statehood must be restored immediately. The aspirations of people of Ladakh must also be fulfilled. We welcome the SC direction to hold assembly elections. However, we believe elections should be held immediately and there is no reason to wait till September 30, 2024,” the senior Congress leader said.

“When elections are held, the people of J&K will have the opportunity to express their views on the crucial questions that we debated in the SC. An opportunity that has been denied to them so far,” he said.

“We are also disappointed that SC did not decide the question of dismembering the state and reducing its status to two union territories. That question is being reserved for adjudication in a suitable case in future,” he said.

Singhvi also said that the Supreme Court verdict is the law of the land now and the debate on the issue has now come to an end. “Democracy, and not autocracy, is the demand of every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir. Why is the BJP afraid of an elected government,” Singhvi asked.

Ending a decades-long debate, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, delivered three concurring judgements upholding abrogation of the Constitutional schemes that provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir when it was annexed to the Union of India in 1947.

Writing the judgement for himself and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, the CJI said Article 370 was a temporary provision and the president was empowered to revoke it in the absence of the Constituent Assembly of the erstwhile state.

The Supreme Court verdict is a “resounding declaration of hope, progress, unity for our sisters and brothers in J&K, Ladakh”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Congress welcomed the Supreme Court orders.

“The Supreme Court’s direction with regard to statehood and elections vindicated our longstanding demand in this direction. We welcome the decision and demand immediate restoration of statehood before the holding of assembly elections,” Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani, flanked by party’s chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma and other leaders, told reporters here.

“We are proud that it was the Congress leadership led by former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who introduced Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. It was the BJP’s longstanding demand to abrogate the constitutional provision,” he said.

He said the people of Jammu and Kashmir were looking forward to special provisions for protection of their rights over land and jobs and the Congress is promise-bound to ensure these.

With regard to Article 370, the Congress chief spokesperson reiterated the party’s August 6, 2019 resolution passed at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 by the centre a day earlier.

The CWC resolution of August 6, 2019 had said that it “deplores the unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic manner in which Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered by misinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution”.

“Every principle of Constitutional law, states’ rights, Parliamentary procedure and democratic governance was violated,” the opposition party had alleged.