SC Comes To Rescue Of Suspended Jammu And Kashmir Lecturer Who Argued Against Abrogation Of Article 370

Zahoor Ahmad Bhat was removed from his place of posting in Srinagar and was attached to the office of the Director School Education, Jammu.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday asked Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to look into the issue of the suspension of Jammu and Kashmir education department lecturer who had argued before the top court in a matter related to the abrogation of Article 370.

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud took note of the suspension of Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, who had argued before the top court on August 24 as petitioner in-person in the case, reported PTI.

As soon as the court resumed its hearing, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that Bhat was suspended from his job by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after having argued before the top court, it mentioned.

"He took leave for two days. Argued before this court and went back and was suspended," Sibal said, it mentioned.

The bench, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, asked Venkataramani to talk to the J-K Lieutenant Governor and look into the issue, it said.

"This should not happen. Someone arguing before this court gets suspended…," the bench said, it added.

Venktaramani replied that he will look into the issue, it said.

Mehta said after the news of Bhat's suspension was published in a newspaper, he checked with the administration and he was informed that there were various reasons behind the lecturer's suspension including that he has been regularly filing petitions before different courts, it added.

"We can place before the court all the materials related to his suspension," Mehta said, the report said.

Sibal countered, "Then, he would have been suspended earlier, why now. I have the suspension order of Bhat and it says that he has argued before this court and therefore the suspension. This is not fair. This is not how democracy should function," it added.

The bench said if there are other reasons then it is another matter but if a person gets suspended in close proximity of arguing before this court, then it needs to be looked into, it said.

Mehta said he agrees that the timing was not appropriate and he will look into it, it added.

On August 24, Bhat had appeared in-person before the top court and argued against the Centre's August 5, 2019 decision to abrogate Article 370.

Bhat was removed from his place of posting in Srinagar and was attached to the office of the Director School Education, Jammu, while a senior official was appointed as an inquiry officer to conduct an in-depth inquiry into his conduct, according to an official order.

"Pending enquiry into his conduct, Mr Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, Senior Lecturer, Political Science, presently posted at Government Higher Secondary School Jawahar Nagar Srinagar, is hereby placed under suspension with immediate effect for violation of provisions of J&K CSR, Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct) Rules 1971, J&K Leave Rules," School Education Department Principal Secretary Alok Kumar said in an order.

During the period of suspension, the delinquent officer shall remain attached in the office of Director School Education, Jammu.

"Further, it is hereby ordered that Ms Subah Mehta, Joint Director, School Education, Jammu is appointed as inquiry officer, who shall conduct an in-depth inquiry in the conduct of the delinquent officer," the order issued on Friday read.

Hailing from central Kashmir's Budgam district, Bhat, who holds a law degree, personally appeared before the Supreme Court which is currently hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the scrapping of Article 370 that granted special status to the erstwhile state.

The central government abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into Union territories of J-K and Ladakh on August 5, 2019.