India’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the 2019 decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to revoke the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The court also set a deadline of September 30 next year for state polls to be conducted.
Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority region, has been a focal point of animosity with neighboring Pakistan for over 75 years since the two nations gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
The unanimous order by a panel of five judges responded to over a dozen petitions challenging the revocation and the subsequent decision to split the region into two federally administered territories. This decision paves the way for elections in the region, which became more closely integrated with India following the government’s contentious move, aligning with a key longstanding promise of Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Supreme Court’s decision provides a boost to the government ahead of the general elections scheduled for May.
Challengers argued that only the constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had the authority to decide on the special status of the scenic mountain region. They contested whether parliament had the power to revoke it.
The court asserted that the special status was a temporary constitutional provision within the purview of parliament to revoke. Additionally, it directed that the federal territory should revert to being a state at the earliest opportunity.
The territory is divided among India, which governs the populous Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-dominated Jammu region; Pakistan, which controls a wedge of territory in the west; and China, which holds a thinly populated high-altitude area in the north.