The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre as to how long the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, which were imposed on August 5 following the revocation of Article 370 that granted special status to J&K, would remain in place.
It also told the solicitor general that the curbs on movement and communication network that were imposed in national interest should also be reviewed. “It’s already two months. How long the restrictions will be in place?”, a three-judge bench led by Justice N V Ramana asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta who said the 99% of the area in the Valley faced no restrictions.
“You have to come with clear answers. There are other ways also [to maintain law and order],” Justice Ramana said.
The top court is hearing a batch of petitions, including the one filed by Kashmir Times executive editor, Anuradha Bhasin, challenging the communication blockade imposed in the Kashmir Valley in the wake of the August 5 decision to revoke the special status extended to J&K under Article 370 and reorganizing the state into two union territories – J&K and Ladakh. The bench fixed November 5 to hear the cases.
Justice Subhash Reddy told Mehta: “It’s fine to have restrictions in the name of national interest. But it should be reviewed regularly.” The solicitor general assured that a review will be done on a daily basis.
Appearing for Bhasin, advocate Vrinda Grover said the internet was totally shut down. Mehta took objection to this statement and reiterated that when terrorist Burhan Wani was killed by security forces in July 2016, there was an internet shut down for three months, and wondered why no one had rushed to the court then. “This has trans-border implications,” he said.
The court said it would hear other petitions including the habeas corpus plea (literally means, produce the body) by Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury challenging the detention of party colleague Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, on November 5.
The Jammu and Kashmir government too said the situation in the state had improved substantially. Barring 8 to 10 police stations, restrictions on movement in other areas have been completely removed, the J&K administration submitted before the court through an affidavit.
Landlines had been restored and mobile phones have started working in Jammu, Ladakh in Kupwara region, the government said. All post-paid mobile phones, irrespective of the telecom service provider, have been restored and are functional from October 14, covering all 10 districts of Kashmir province, it said. With regard to publication of newspapers, Mehta said Bhasin on her own volition is not publishing her newspaper from Srinagar. The government also placed on record some executive orders imposing restrictions and said: “The reasons and justifications behind passing of such orders are obviously never reflected in the orders as recording such grounds in the order/s would defeat the very object of the order/s”.
Meanwhile, the chief justice of the J&K High Court filed a report before the top court stating that “there is access to justice” in the court. A petition by two child rights activists had claimed that they could not approach the high court because of the restrictions. The CJ had already filed a report on this matter last month.
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