Justice S Ravindra Bhat Expresses Concerns Over Supreme Court's Article 370 Decision, Calls for Constitutional Adaptation

Justice Bhat critiques SC's Article 370 decision, citing federalism concerns. He emphasizes adapting old laws to modern society, urging proactive measures for constitutional relevance.

Retired Supreme Court Judge Justice S Ravindra Bhat expressed concern about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the abrogation of Article 370 without addressing the crucial issue of federalism. Speaking at the Constitution Conference 2024 held by Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad, Justice Bhat emphasized the significance of "Contemporary Constitutionalism" in India.

Regarding the Article 370 case, Justice Bhat remarked that while the Court upheld the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status, it failed to clarify whether Parliament had the authority to downgrade a State into a Union Territory. Instead, the Court accepted an assurance from the Solicitor General regarding the restoration of J&K's statehood and holding elections, albeit without specifying a timeline.

Justice Bhat highlighted the Court's decision as setting a worrying precedent for federalism. He drew attention to cases like the Demonetization Case and Govt. of NCT of Delhi v Union of India, which demonstrate the evolving nature of constitutional interpretation. Justice Bhat stressed the importance of reinterpreting old laws to align with the changing societal landscape, citing the triple chain accountability test developed by the Supreme Court.

Further, he discussed cases such as the Maharashtra Assembly case and the electoral bond case, which have reshaped contemporary constitutionalism in India. Justice Bhat also referenced the Anoop Baranwal Judgment, where the Supreme Court introduced a consultative mechanism for appointing independent election commissioners.

Reflecting on the judiciary's role, Justice Bhat underscored the need to examine and revise longstanding norms to ensure the Constitution remains responsive, efficient, and relevant in the 21st century. He emphasized the importance of scrutinizing laws against constitutional norms to determine their validity and adaptability to contemporary standards.

Justice Bhat also addressed the challenges posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in shaping social change. He highlighted the impact of AI-enabled technologies on traditional notions of personhood, creativity, privacy, and public opinion. Justice Bhat called for collective efforts to reformulate norms to address these challenges effectively.