SC Closes PIL Claiming Statutory Panels in J&K Are Non-Functional

Jammu and Kashmir

The Supreme Court on Tuesday closed the proceedings on a PIL that claimed statutory panels in Jammu and Kashmir were non-functional.

The court was informed by the Union Territory administration that these panels are now operational and that the powers of some, such as the State Human Rights Commission, are being exercised by the NHRC.

Earlier, the top court had issued notices to the Centre regarding the 2020 PIL filed by Pune-based lawyer Asim Suhas Sarode and had sought the assistance of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in resolving the matter.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleged that statutory panels, including the State Human Rights Commission, have been non-functional in the Union Territory following the abrogation of Article 370, which had granted special status to the former state. The PIL pointed out that seven panels, including the Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Women, the State Commission for Persons with Disabilities, and the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, are non-operational.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala took note of submissions from the Solicitor General that the statutory panels are indeed functional, and some of their powers are now exercised by central panels due to the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir. The law officer mentioned that the powers of three out of the seven commissions are being exercised by central panels, while the remaining ones are functional in the Union Territory. He also cited an affidavit from the law, justice, and parliamentary affairs department of Jammu and Kashmir in support of his statements.

“We will close the case,” the bench stated.

“It has been submitted that with the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, the laws applicable to Union Territories are now applicable to Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the central government has the authority to direct central commissions to function as state commissions,” the bench noted. Consequently, the PIL was disposed of, as the plea had become infructuous and no further directions were deemed necessary.

The petitioner had included the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the National Human Rights Commission, and the Law Commission of India as parties to the PIL. In August 2019, the Centre bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which had accorded special status to the erstwhile state.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 5, 2019, and passed the same day. The Lok Sabha cleared it the following day.

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