The Jammu and Kashmir High Court said that the protection under Constitution’s Article 19(A) is not granted on statements that Kashmir is occupied by the military or that the residents of the Valley have been reduced to slaves, reported Bar and Bench on Monday. Article 19(A) deals with freedom of speech and expression.

“It is one thing to criticise the government for its negligence and express outrage on the violation of human rights of the people but it is quite another to advocate that the people of a particular part of the country are slaves of the government of India or that they are under occupation of armed forces of the country,” the order dated April 22 stated.

Justice Sanjay Dhar made the statement while hearing a petition plea filed by advocate Muzamil Butt seeking to quash a first information report filed against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The FIR was registered against Butt for his Facebook posts criticising the killings of civilians in Kulgam district’s Laroo village in October 2018. Seven civilians were killed in an explosion at the site of a gunfight between between security forces and militants.

Butt had also expressed outrage on social media platforms at other incidents of violence, which was within his right to free speech, the judge said in his order. In two Facebook posts, Butt had said that Kashmir has been occupied by the military, “which is like a cancer”, and that people of the Valley are like slaves to the Union government, the judge added.

By making these comments, Butt was supporting the claim that Jammu and Kashmir is not a part of India, the court said.

“In my opinion, the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution cannot be stretched to such a limit as to allow a person to question the status of a part of the country or its people,” it said.

The court said that by posting these messages, the advocate has crossed the line that separates freedom of speech from the reasonable restrictions on it.

“The intention of a person can be gathered from the words spoken or written or other expressions,” the judge said. “Therefore, the expressions used by the petitioner, who happens to be a law knowing person, clearly show that he intended to advocate a particular ideology which supports the claim of cessions of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India.”

The court held that Butt’s action fall within the definition of “unlawful activity” in Section 2(O) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. On these grounds, it refused to quash the case filed against Butt.

The court also said that case against the advocate was different from the one against journalist Vinod Dua. The Supreme Court had quashed the sedition case filed against Dua for allegedly spreading fake news through his YouTube show on the 2020 Delhi riots.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court held that while Dua had criticised the government, he had not advocated cession of a part of the country.

“Whereas, in the instant case, the petitioner [Butt] by uploading the posts on his Facebook, has supported the claim of cession of a particular part of the country,” the court added.