Srinagar: The Centre’s stand in the Supreme Court on restoration of statehood and holding Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir is nothing new but just a diversionary tactic, political parties in the valley said on Thursday.
While the National Conference (NC) described the submissions made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in the top court as a tactic to divert attention from the main issue of the challenge to the legality of the Centre’s August 5, 2019 decisions, other political parties said the remarks were fallacious, a joke and similar to the Centre’s stand over the last few years.
The Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the Assembly polls can be held in Jammu and Kashmir “anytime from now”, with most of the work on the voters’ list over, and the decision on specific dates depends on the Election Commission (EC).
A five-judge Constitution bench of the apex court is currently reviewing petitions that have challenged the abrogation of Article 370.
National Conference (NC) spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said while his party will keep advocating for the restoration of democratic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which include the holding of Assembly polls, “we would continue to fight for our constitutional and legal rights as well”.
“We did not go to the Supreme Court asking for elections. Our basic petition is against the unilateral and unconstitutional decisions taken on August 5, 2019. What the SG has told the Supreme Court bench is a tactic to divert the attention from the main issue, which is the August 5 decisions, and we will confine ourselves to that,” Dar told PTI in Srinagar.
He, however, said the NC has always advocated for strengthening democratic institutions and that includes holding the Assembly polls.
Dar alleged that Mehta’s submissions in the top court about updating the voters’ list in Jammu and Kashmir were also aimed at creating more “confusion”.
“The voters’ list is primarily being updated for the municipal elections, it has got nothing to do with the Assembly polls,” he said, adding that the Assembly election has been due in the Union Territory for more than four-and-a-half years, so they have to be held.
NC’s provincial Secretary Sheikh Bashir Ahmed pointed out that the Centre’s stance remains unchanged and said there is nothing novel in its statement made before the apex court.
“The Supreme Court judges asked the Centre when the Assembly polls will be held. The Centre said it is ready to hold the polls, but did not give any date. There is nothing new that the government has said,” he said.
Suhail Bukhari, the chief spokesperson of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said neither the restoration of statehood nor the conduct of the Assembly polls is an essential priority for the party.
“We want to witness how the Supreme Court decides on the constitutional validity of the abrogation of Article 370, which we believe was unconstitutional and illegal. We are very satisfied with the cogent manner in which the case of the people of Jammu and Kashmir has been pleaded by the legal luminaries of the country.
“We hope that justice will prevail for the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well as for the democratic ethos of the country,” he said.
Bukhari said the EC has already stated that all the preparations have been made for holding the Assembly polls.
“It even went to the extent of saying that there is a vacuum that must be filled and it would only wait for the security clearance. The BJP, on the other hand, says it is the prerogative of the EC.
“Now that the government has told the Supreme Court that it is ready for elections anytime, I think it has put the EC in a very tight spot,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma expressed gratitude to the Supreme Court for seeking a reply from the Centre on holding Assembly polls and restoration of statehood in Jammu and Kashmir.
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