SC says it is a ‘problem’ if J&K academic was suspended for appearing in Article 370 case

Justice B. R. Gavai also questioned the Centre about the “close proximity” between Zaroor Ahmed Bhat’s appearance in court and the suspension order

August 28, 2023 11:42 am | Updated 05:49 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

The Supreme Court on August 28 asked the Attorney General of India to look into the suspension of a senior Kashmiri lecturer, Zaroor Ahmed Bhat, from his job by the Jammu and Kashmir administration in close succession of his arguing his challenge to the abrogation of Article 370 before the top court.

Also read | SC hearing on Article 370 abrogation

“Mr. Attorney General, please use your good offices to see what happened. Somebody who appears in this court is suspended. Talk to the Lieutenant Governor… If there is some other reason, apart from his appearance in this court, that’s different… But this suspension happens in close succession to his appearance before us… just see what happened,” Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud addressed the country’s top law officer R. Venkataramani.

Justice B. R. Gavai also questioned the Centre about the “close proximity” between Mr. Bhat’s appearance in court and the suspension order.

“I have not seen the order, but the timing and the reference to this aspect [Mr. Bhat’s appearance in the Supreme Court in the Article 370 case]... If it is there, then there is a little problem,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul joined in from the Bench.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for both the Union of India and the Jammu and Kashmir administration, said “there are other issues” leading to the suspension and everything in the newspapers “may not be the whole truth” about the affair.

However, when the judges on the Constitution Bench, one after the other, voiced their scepticism about the suspiciously quick succession of events, Mr. Mehta admitted that the “timing was definitely not proper… I bow down… no argument”. He said he would ask the government officials concerned to look into it.

Mr. Bhat’s predicament was brought to the attention of the Bench by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Rajiv Dhavan, who said “this is not the way our democracy functions. He appears in this court, files written submissions, the next day he is suspended”.

Mr. Sibal said if there were “other issues” which prompted the suspension, the administration could have acted against him earlier. “Why wait till he appears in the Article 370 matter,” the senior advocate asked.

“He was suspended from the faculty because he argued what he argued in the Article 370 matter… these things should not happen,” Mr. Sibal submitted.

Mr. Bhat, who teaches Political Science at Government Higher Secondary School in Srinagar, was suspended with immediate effect for the violation of the provisions of J&K CSR, Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1971 and J&K Leave Rules.

He had argued against the abrogation of Article 370 in the Supreme Court. He had told the Bench, on a personal note, about how difficult it has become for people like him to face questions about the true essence of democracy and the spirit of the Indian Constitution following the abrogation of Article 370 and the end of the dual relationship of federalism on August 5, 2019.

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