Srinagar/New Delhi: During the 15th day of the Article 370 hearing in the Supreme Court, the counsel representing the government defending the abrogation of Article 370 called for National Conference leader Mohd Akbar Lone to apologize for his 2018 "Pakistan Zindabad" slogan in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. Lone, who is the lead petitioner challenging the abrogation of Article 370, is represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal.
Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta argued for Lone's apology, stating, "He should file an affidavit affirming his allegiance to the Constitution of India because he is before the highest court of the country. Who is contesting the continuing of 370! He must also express strong opposition to terrorism and secessionism in Jammu and Kashmir."
Mehta stressed on Lone's significance, saying, "He's not an ordinary man; he is a member of Parliament and expressed concerns about the impact of such statements by senior leaders and argued that without an apology, it might encourage others, potentially affecting efforts to bring normalcy to Jammu and Kashmir.
Rakesh Dwivedi and V. Giri, senior advocates representing intervenors supporting the abrogation, echoed Mehta's call for Lone to furnish an affidavit of apologyMehta said, "
As the intervenors concluded their arguments, Sibal took the floor, asserting that none of the counsel challenging the abrogation had questioned India's sovereignty. Sibal said, "I don't think anyone on this side challenged the sovereignty of India."
Justice Kaul: They say that your first petitioner (Mohammad Akbar Lone) has said something which is not in sync...
Sibal: I'm not concerned with that. If he has said it, in what circumstances, is it recorded, you ask him for an affidavit.
“I'm not standing for him or what he said, if he said it.” Sibal said.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) interjected, questioning Lone's stance: "Do we take it that Mr. Lone unconditionally accepts the sovereignty of India and that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India?"
Sibal responded, "He is a member of Parliament today, he has sworn to the Constitution of India, and he is a citizen of India. How can he say otherwise? If anyone has said it, at my level, I deprecate it."
SG Mehta interpolated: “It is one thing for Mr Sibal to deprecate it. A litigant before your lordships has said.”
Sibal retorted, "Ask him to file an affidavit; I have nothing to do with it."
SG: It's your client.
CJI: Let us reflect on it.
Sibal: I'm not to answer allegations on him.
“Mr Sibal, when he invokes the jurisdiction of our court under Art 32 of the Constitution, he necessarily abides by the Constitution,” CJI said.
Sibal: He's a member of lok sabha, he's a citizen.
CJI: That's a submission Mr Sibal but we want to have it from him that he unconditionally accepts that J&K is an integral part of India and that he abides by and owes allegiance to Constitution of India.
Justice Khanna: When you argue, you accept the sovereignty of people of India. You accept that J&K is an integral part. When your client says something outside this court... probably then he is also accepting there was an issue to be dealt with.
Sibal: What has happened, it'll only lead to a media coverage. Let us not go that route. We're arguing pure constitutional issue. There was a speaker of the BJP who was present there when this allegedly happened. There are some people who asked him to say something he didn't say
“It's not part of record, it's withdrawn, it's deleted. BJP speaker was there. He was asked to say something which people ask other people to say on the streets of this country. Why do we need to go into this,” Sibal asked the bench.
CJI: We proceed on the basis that he is willing to file an affidavit before our court that he owes allegiance like any other citizen of India and that J&K is an integral part of India.
SG: Let him say that he doesn't support terrorism and secessionism. No citizen can have any objection in filing that.
Sibal: There is also another petitioner- Justice Masoodi, let me argue for him. You want to take any action against him, do it but please don't derail pure legal submission.
CJI: We will hear you for Mr Lone as well. There's no difficulty. He has come to our court, we're duty bound to hear his submissions. All that we want to say here is that everyone we have here, because we've had people from across the political spectrum in J&K, it's welcome.
CJI: But all of them have come in one spirit - which is that they abide by the integrity of India.
Sibal: You cannot be a member of Lok sabha without abiding by the Constitution of India. There is an oath he has taken. There's an affidavit filed there.
CJI: Tomorrow, just ask him to file an affidavit.
SG: Mr Sibal should insist to his client that no citizen would have any objection in saying that I do not support terrorism...
Sibal: half an hour lost on just all this.
SG: It's not just all this. It's a serious issue.
Sibal: What is a serious issue? You want me to say something I shouldn't say in court?
AG: He wants his fundamental rights to be enforced...
Sibal: Everyone has fundamental rights in this country including those who on the streets you vilify.
SG: They're also wrong.
Sibal: Then you should apologise for them.
Let me argue the case now….
.To be continued…..