SC allows Azad to visit J&K, agrees to entertain JKPC plea

Want to reach out to people: Azad
NEW DELHI, Sept 16:
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was today allowed by the Supreme Court to visit four districts in Jammu and Kashmir for assessing the impact on life of daily wagers due to the present situation prevailing after the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.
The top court noted Azad’s submission that he will not indulge in any political rally or political activity during his visit.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer issued a notice to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration, and sought their response within two weeks on other issues raised in the petition.
The bench allowed Azad to visit Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla and Jammu districts of the state subject to any restrictions, if any.

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“We permit the petitioner to go to Srinagar and visit the following districts, subject to restrictions, if any:-(i) Srinagar, (ii) Anantnag, (iii) Baramulla and (iv) Jammu.
“The petitioner has undertaken before the court on his own volition that he will not indulge in any political rally or political activity during his visit,” the bench said.
“The visit will solely be concerned with making an assessment of the impact of the present situation on the life of the daily wage earners, if any,” it said.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the former chief minister said he is at present a Member of Parliament from the state and needs to meet the people.
There are reports that daily wagers involved in farming and working in apple orchards are facing serious problems and loss of livelihood due to the clampdown prevailing in the state, he said.
“I (Azad) am a six-time Member of Parliament and a former chief minister of the state. I as Member of Parliament can visit the whole of India but cannot visit my home state. I need to visit the people.
“I have a fundamental right to meet the people of my state and my constituency and know about their well-being,” Singhvi said on behalf of Azad.
He said Azad had thrice tried to visit the State on August 8, 20 and 24, but was sent back from the airport itself.
There are no orders “prohibiting” Azad from entering the state. If there are no such orders, then under what under provisions can they deny him entry into his state, Singhvi said.
The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, that Azad wants to visit his home state and undertakes not to hold any political rally.
Mehta said that he has not been served any petition and needs two weeks to reply to the same.
Azad, who has filed the petition in his personal capacity, had said on Sunday that his move was “apolitical”.
In his plea, Azad has also sought a nod from the top court to visit his family members and relatives.
In his petition before the top court, he has also sought permission to check on social conditions of the people after a clampdown was imposed by the authorities following the scrapping of the State’s special status.
Azad said it will be a “humanitarian” trip to reach out to common people and he will submit a report to the Apex Court on his return.
Azad also accused the State and Centre of not being bothered about the people.
Azad said he is concerned about lines of communication disrupted in Jammu and Kashmir, but is more worried about the common people and how they are earning a living.
“For those lakhs of people, I had put in this request because the State Government has put all representatives, party leaders from Kashmir valley and also in Jammu under detention,” he said, asserting that no BJP leader had been detained.
“They (politicians) cannot raise their voice so who will speak for the people. The Government is not bothered about this section, so I put in the request before the Supreme Court,” the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha told reporters.
He said he had made efforts to visit Jammu and Kashmir but was sent back both from the Srinagar airport and the Jammu airport.
“I have mentioned in the petition that I am not going to meet family members. I will visit Kashmir on a humanitarian basis,” Azad said.
“I am thankful to Supreme Court for permitting me to travel to Srinagar, Baramulla, Anantnag and Jammu districts. Whatever report I get from there I will present it before the Supreme Court and probably then they can tell the Government if there is a way to arrange for food for these people,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today agreed to entertain a petition filed by the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) challenging the President’s Rule imposed in the State and abrogation of provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the State.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer tagged the petition filed by JKPC along with petitions which have been referred to a five-judge Constitution bench for examining the legal validity of the Presidential order on abrogation of Article 370 from the State.
However, the bench declined to entertain other fresh petitions on the issue of scrapping of Article 370.
The bench said it is not going to multiply the petitions on the issue of Article 370.
It said people who want to argue on the issue can file impleadment application.
“We are examining the validity of the legislative action,” the bench said while referring to several petitions which have been referred to the Constitution bench and fixed for hearing in first week of October.
When the counsel appearing for the JKPC pleaded for entertaining its petition, the bench said, “you should have come to this court earlier”.
While challenging the Centre’s decisions to scrap provisions of the Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and dividing it into two Union Territories, the JKPC has sought a direction to declare the state reorganization act and the presidential orders as “unconstitutional and void”.
The party has said the state has been under President’s Rule under Article 356 of the Constitution since June 2018, and routine decisions of the State Government are taken by the Governor, who himself is a delegate of the President under the Presidential proclamation issued under Article 356 (1)(a).
The JKPC is the second party after the National Conference (NC) which has mounted a legal challenge in the apex court to the changes made in the Constitutional status of the State.
The NC petition has been filed by Mohammad Akbar Lone and Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi, both Lok Sabha members belonging to the party.
The JKPC, in its plea, also submitted that the Jammu and Kashmir Governor has kept the entire nation in the dark. The country was not informed that such a drastic action against the interest of the State was being taken, it submitted.
The party also challenged the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act passed by Parliament and said, “The entire State particularly the Valley was put under curfew and then only those CO’s were passed and the impugned legislation was enacted”.
“Never ever in the history of the nation reorganization under Article 3 has taken place which shows a blatant attack on our Constitution and the freedom of people of a State,” it submitted.
The party said Jammu and Kashmir had a separate Constitution and Parliament had a limited scope to enact legislation for the State.
Therefore by a parliamentary act, the powers given to the state by its own Constitution could not have been abrogated by merely taking away Article 370 by the impugned legislation, it said. (PTI)