SRINAGAR, India — India’s top court on Monday upheld a 2019 decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to strip disputed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status as a semi-autonomous region with a separate constitution and inherited protections on land and jobs.
The five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court ruled that the region’s special status had been a “temporary provision” and that removing it in 2019 was constitutionally valid.
The unprecedented move also divided the region into two federal territories, Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir, both ruled directly by the central government without a legislature of their own. As a result, the Muslim-majority region is now run by unelected government officials and has lost its flag, criminal code and constitution.
But Chief Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud said the government has promised to restore Jammu-Kashmir’s statehood and should do so as soon as possible. Ladakh, however, will remain a federal territory.
He also ordered the country’s election commission to hold local legislative polls in the region by next Sept. 30.
The ruling is expected to boost the electoral prospects of Modi’s governing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in national polls next year. The 2019 move resonated in much of India, where the Modi government was cheered by supporters for fulfilling a long-held Hindu nationalist pledge to scrap the Muslim-majority region’s special status.
But the judgment will disappoint many in Kashmir, including the region’s main pro-India Kashmiri politicians who had petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the deeply unpopular decision, which was imposed under an unprecedented security and communication clampdown that lasted many months.
The court’s hearings began in August and included extensive arguments and discussions on the move’s constitutional validity.