The Indian government has told the country's Supreme Court that the present status of India-administrated Jammu and Kashmir as a federally-governed union territory is "temporary", and the government is ready to hold the legislative elections in the region "anytime now".
The top court, which is hearing petitions challenging legislation that stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and special status in 2019, had earlier asked the government to indicate if there is a time frame to restore the region's status as a full-fledged state.
"... my instructions are that I am unable to give an exact time period right now for complete statehood while saying that union territory is a temporary status because of the peculiar circumstances the state had passed through with repeated and consistent disturbances of decades. It might take some time," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court on Thursday.
The Solicitor General is India's top legal officer representing the government.
He added the government is progressing towards making it a full-fledged state.
Mehta also said that the Indian government is ready to hold the legislative assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir "anytime now" and that the election commission has to take a call on how the three elections due in the region could be held.
This week he also said that the status of the union territory of Ladakh, which is one of two union territories carved out of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state, is a permanent thing.
Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government since 2018.
On August 5 2019, the Hindu-nationalist Indian government scrapped the autonomous status of the only Muslim-majority region administered by it and divided it into two centrally-administered Union Territories that have been ruled since then by officials appointed by New Delhi.
Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir had its own constitution, flag, and two-house assembly that could make its own laws.
The Indian government also scrapped another legislation, Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which empowered the Jammu and Kashmir government to define its residents and barred all outsiders from owning properties or taking government jobs, raising fears that more than 12 million original residents, nearly 28 percent of them Hindus, would be reduced into a minority by outsiders.
The Indian government defended the move as its “sovereign decision” approved by parliament.
The Muslim-majority region of Kashmir is claimed by both Pakistan and India in full.
Islamabad says New Delhi's 2019 move is illegal and has since downgraded diplomatic ties and halted trade.