Agency New Delhi: The Supreme Court raised a query Wednesday as to who could be the competent authority to reconstitute the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly to take a call on altering the special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 of the Constitution. The top court, which was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370, also raised the point that if the decision rested with people then will it be a case of “referendum, concurrence or consultation”. The petitioners referred to the constitutional provision and said that only the Constituent Assembly, which represents the will of the people, is empowered to make recommendation to the President on any changes in the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, was abrogated by the Centre on August 5. “Who could be the competent authority to reconstitute the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly (to decide on special status of J&K)?,” a 5-judge constitution bench, headed by Justices N V Ramana, asked senior advocate Raju Ramachandaran, appearing for bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal, Shehla Rashid and other petitioners. Ramachandaran rep lied that Article 370 gave people of Jammu and Kashmir the right to choose and the ultimate decision should have rested with them. “If that is the case then will it be a case of referendum, concurrence or consultation?,” a bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, asked. Ramachandaran said that President could have only abrogated provisions of Article 370 only on recommendation of the Constituent assembly, which represented the will of the people of the state. “Article 370 of the Constitution left it to the Constituent assembly to decide whether it wants the special status provision to be continued or abrogated,” he said, adding that the Article states the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly must be taken. “When there is no Constituent Assembly, then it is understandable that a state legislature will take its place. Under no circumstances the President can usurp the power of Constituent Assembly,” Ramachandaran said, adding that Centre could not have abrogated the constitutional provision.
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