Changing Article 370 is being challenged in court : Its implications for Jammu and Kashmir

  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has begun to start hearing petitions challenging the changes to Article 370 and downgrading of Jammu & Kashmir state into two Union Territories.
  • The petitions, involving important legal and constitutional questions, will be taken up by a Bench led by the current Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Constitutional changes made by Parliament:

  • On August 5, the Centre issued an order amending The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, and superseding it with The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019.
  • The new order made “all the provisions of the Constitution” applicable to J&K state. The government also amended Article 367 to add a new Clause (4), making the Constitution of India directly applicable to J&K.
  • Then, President issued a declaration under Article 370(3) making all its clauses inoperative except the provision that all articles of the Constitution shall apply to J&K.

The Petitioners

Changes to Article 370

  • Article 370 provided for application of Article 1 and Article 370 to Jammu & Kashmir.
    • Other provisions of the Constitution did not automatically extend to J&K, but clause (1)(d) of Article 370 empowered the President of India to extend them through an executive order with the concurrence of the government of J&K.
  • Clause 3 of Article 370 empowered the President to
    • “Declare that this article shall cease to be operative” completely or partially but only if the Constituent Assembly of J&K recommended such an action. Since the Constituent Assembly of J&K no longer existed, having dispersed in 1957, this power of the President had ceased, unless a new Constituent Assembly came into being.
  • Article 370 explained that “for the purpose of this article”, the state government meant the Maharaja (later changed to Sadr-e-Riyasat) of J&K, acting on the advice of the council of ministers. But there was no state government either in J&K, so the President had no way to acquire the concurrence of the state government.
  • This meant there was no constitutional and legal mechanism available for the Centre to abrogate or amend Article 370.
  • The Centre, however, used the President’s powers under Article 370(1)(d) to amend Article 367, which provides guidelines to interpret the Constitution.
    • A new clause was added to Article 367, replacing “Constituent Assembly of the State” referred to in Article 370(3) by “Legislative Assembly of the State”.
  • Thus, the presidential order route under Article 370(1)(d) was used to amend Article 370 itself, whereas Article 370 could have been amended only upon the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly under Article 370(3), not through Article 370(1)(d).

Parliament = state govt?

  • The President, while imposing his direct rule in J&K, had assumed all functions of the J&K government, taken over all the powers of the Governor under both the Indian Constitution and the J&K Constitution and extended the powers of the state legislature to Parliament.
  • This meant that the President of India was in effect the J&K state government, and Parliament was in effect the state legislature.
  • The powers of the J&K Constituent Assembly were passed on to the state legislature and, in this scheme of things, when the “state government” gave its concurrence to these monumental changes, it was, in fact, the President giving concurrence to his own decision.
  • It has been argued that since President’s Rule in a state is in the nature of an interim arrangement until an elected government is put in place, the administration under President’s Rule cannot take decisions that change the very constitutional structure of the state.

Special provision for J&K before removal of Article 370 :

  • The move to abolish the J&K Constitution has been challenged because the Legislative Assembly of J&K had no power under the J&K Constitution to recommend any amendment to any provision of the Constitution of India.
  • Article 147 of the J&K Constitution barred the J&K Legislative Assembly from “seeking to make any change in provisions of the Constitution of India as applicable in relation to the State”.
  • It has been argued that this means even the J&K Legislative Assembly wasn’t legally competent to give consent to the President’s order.

Providing the status of UT:

  • The Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Act, 2019 bifurcated J&K into two Union Territories — J&K was an UT with a Legislative Assembly; Ladakh was without an Assembly.
  • There is no other instance in India’s constitutional history of a state being demoted to a UT, even though Parliament can under Article 3 create a new state by carving out territory from any state, uniting two or more states, or portions of different states.
  • Parliament is also empowered to add area to an existing state, or change the existing boundaries of a state.
  • The Centre’s decision has been challenged on the ground that it violates Article 3
  • The provision to this article makes it incumbent on the President to refer any Bill proposing the reorganisation of a state to its legislature if the Bill “affects the area, boundaries or name of any of the states”.
  • It is argued that the view of Parliament on such a Bill cannot replace the view of the state legislature.
  • Under President’s Rule, only those powers of a state legislature can be exercised as are essential to run the day-to-day affairs of the state.
    • Parliament cannot provide the view of a particular state legislature which in essence is the opinion of the people of that state.

Colourable legislation

  • The challenge is also based on the argument that the constitutional changes are “colourable legislation” and thus legally untenable.
  • The doctrine of colourable legislation is the legal principle that says what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.
  • This doctrine has been reiterated by the Supreme Court, as well as constitutional courts in other countries.


  • As Article 370 itself mention that it is “temporary, transitional and special Provisions” of Indian constitution. Therefore, it is subject to cease.
  • However, the process for its removal should be within the domain of constitutional provisions for betterment of people of India that will bring unity and diversity.

Historical background of Article 370

  • The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Dominion of India after Maharaja Hari Singh, the monarch of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, signed the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947.
  • As per Article 370, only Articles 1 and 370 of the Indian Constitution apply to J&K. Other Articles’ application was to be decided by the President in collaboration with the state administration.
  • In accordance with the Instrument of Accession, the Constitution Order of 1950 stated the matters on which the Union Parliament would be competent to pass legislation for Jammu & Kashmir – 38 subjects from the Union List were included.

Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954

  • It established a constitutional link between Jammu & Kashmir and India.
  • As per it,
    • the Constitution was amended to include Article 35A. (providing the state legislature with the authority to pass laws regulating the privileges enjoyed by permanent residents in terms of settling in the state, acquiring immovable property, and finding work)
    • Supreme Court’s jurisdiction was extended to the state.
    • In the case of external aggression, the central government was given the authority to proclaim a national emergency.
    • Only with the approval of the State Government could the power be used in the event of internal unrest.
    • The Centre and Jammu & Kashmir’s financial connections have been normalized.