A 5-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court is hearing petitions, challenging the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 of the Indian Constitution. One of the petitioners in the case is a National Conference (NC) leader named Mohammad Akbar Lone.
Lone, represented in court by veteran advocate and former Congress leader Kapil Sibal, is under fire for his pro-Pakistani stance. On Monday (September 5), Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud pulled up Sibal for the pro-Pakistani remarks of Lone.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Government of India, pointed out that the NC leader had raised pro-Pakistan slogans in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 2018.
Now this could be EPIC contempt of the Supreme Court of India and by none other than the famous advocate and Congress leader @KapilSibal! But why is Sibal so brazen, angry and rude?
Because he is offended that Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud wants Sibal’s client,… pic.twitter.com/F1YeI3piwS
— Aarti Tikoo (@AartiTikoo) September 4, 2023
“He (Lone) should file an affidavit that I owe allegiance to the constitution of India. Because I am before the highest court of the country. And he must say that I strongly oppose terrorism and secessionism in J&K. He must come on record. He is the petitioner in the lead petition,” he suggested.
“We got your point. We will put it to Mr. Counsel during the rejoinder,” the Chief Justice of India noted. As expected, Kapil Sibal was reluctant to address the comments made by his client.
He claimed, “I am not concerned with that. If he has said it, in what circumstances, is it recorded, you ask him for an affidavit. I am not standing for him or what he said, if he said it.”
Sibal comes to the defence of Mohammad Akbar Lone
Kapil Sibal alleged that raising the issue of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ sloganeering by his client, Mohammad Akbar Lone, would lead to unnecessary media coverage.
“What has happened, it will only lead to media coverage. Let us not go that route. We are arguing a 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,” the ex-Congress leader was heard saying.
He further added, “It is not part of the record, it is withdrawn, it’s deleted.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?’”
#SupremeCourt asks National Conference leader Mohammad Akbar Lone, the lead petitioner in the Article 370 case, to file an affidavit affirming that J&K is an integral part of India and that he owed allegiance to the Constitution of India.#Article370 #JammuAndKashmir https://t.co/OSWUbnlhsV
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) September 4, 2023
Later, Sibal claimed “He (Lone) has sworn an oath as a Member to the Constitution of India. He is a citizen of India… How can he say otherwise.”
CJI Chandrachud then directed his client to file an affidavit before the court, stating his allegiance to the Indian constitution. He directed, “We want it from him that he unconditionally accepts that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and he abides and owes allegiance to the Constitution.”
NC leader files affidavit, avoids mention of Jammu and Kashmir
On Tuesday (September 5), the National Conference leader Akbar Lone filed his affidavit before the apex court. Far from condemning secessionism and terrorism, he even avoided mentioning that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.
“That I am a responsible and dutiful citizen of the Union of India. I have exercised my right to approach this Hon’ble Court through Article 32 of the Constitution…That I reiterate the oath taken while being sworn in as Member of Parliament to preserve and uphold the provisions of the Constitution of India and to protect the territorial integrity of the Nation,” the affidavit read.
Interestingly, Kapil Sibal objected to the affidavit being read out in the court as the proceedings were being televised.
Affidavit filed by National Conference MP Akbar Lone today in the Supreme Court.
Akbar Lone nowhere in the affidavit says that J&K is an integral part of India.
Hope the Constitution Bench led by the Chief Justice makes a strong note.
Supreme Court had earlier asked Akbar… pic.twitter.com/WfN3spgH6r
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) September 5, 2023
Solicitor General Tushar General did not mince any words and said, “India is referred to as if it is a foreign country. His affidavit must say that I withdraw these statements. I do not support terrorism, I do not support any separatist activity and no citizen in this country can logically say that.’”
Pro-Pakistan antecedents of Mohammad Akbar Lone
In February 2018, the National Conference leader raised slogans in favour of Pakistan in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly after the BJP criticised Pakistan over a terror attack on the Sunjuwan military camp. “Pakistan Zindabad,” he yelled in the midst of chaos in the Assembly.
Mohammad later defended his contentious remarks and claimed, “Mein Kashmiri hoon, Hindustani hoon ya Pakistani… jo bhi hoon, mein pehley to Musalmaan hoon (Whether I am Kashmiri, Indian or Pakistani, I am first a Muslim). My sentiments got hurt and I said Pakistan zindabad.”
“Pakistan zindabad kehney se kya hota hai. Woh kahengey Pakistan murdabad, mein kahunga Pakistan zindabad. Iss se kya hota hai (What happens if I say Pakistan zindabad? If they say Pakistan murdabad, I will say Pakistan zindabad),” he brazened it out.
This is Akbar Lone, National Conference Member of Parliament who screamed “Pakistan Zindabad” inside the J&K Assembly in 2018.
In 2019, during this interview he said that he stands by the slogan “Pakistan Zindabad” and won’t express any remorse or apology.
Supreme Court of… pic.twitter.com/7AUkAb7mpd
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) September 4, 2023
A year later in March 2019, the National Conference leader reiterated his pro-Pakistan stance and said that he would abuse whoever dared to abuse Pakistan.
“The other side of this is a Muslim country, it should remain prosperous and successful. Our friendship with them should intensify. India and Pakistan should have a friendship with each other and I am an admirer of this friendship. If anyone will abuse them once, I will abuse him ten times from here,” he was quoted as saying.
As such, Kapil Sibal representing Mohammad Akbar Lone in the apex court and opposing abrogation of Article 370 is problematic. Lone has not shied away from openly expressing his admiration for Pakistan, which has been occupying a portion of India’s Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan is opposed to the fact that J&K is an integral part of India. Lone has displayed his opposition to the same by opposing the aborgation of Article 370 and showcasing his allegiance to Muslim-majority Pakistan.
For Sibal, who has served several decades in Congress, to represent a secessionist politician such as Lone is a travesty. To add salt to the wound, the veteran politician and advocate also tried to contextualise the ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans raised by the National Conference politician.
He was also not concerned about the fact that Lone did not explicitly mention that J&K is an integral part of India. Sibal was concerned that it was being televised to the rest of the country.