The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to pass any orders on lifting the restrictions placed in Jammu and Kashmir, and said the Centre should be given more time to restore normalcy in the region, Live Law reported.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Congress leader Tehseen Poonawalla against the restrictions and “other regressive measures” taken by the Centre over the past week. The state has been under a tight security and information clampdown since August 4, a day before the Centre announced that it was revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcating the state into Union Territories. Prohibitory orders were relaxed in parts of the state on Friday but they were reportedly reimposed on Monday.
The bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, MR Shah and Ajay Rastogi said they will hear the petition again in two weeks. The court said there was a “serious situation” in Jammu and Kashmir and that the Centre and state governments may be “apprehending law and order”, according to Bar and Bench. This was in response to Poonawalla’s counsel’s question if there can be a prohibition of all communication in Kashmir.
Justice Mishra then asked Attorney General KK Venugopal how long the curfew will continue. Venugopal responded that the Centre was taking into consideration all relevant aspects. Observing that a similar situation took three months to resolve in 2016, he said the current crisis may be settled in a few days.
Venugopal added that the situation was dynamic and changing on a daily basis. He said the Centre was reviewing the situation and lifting restrictions step by step. Venugopal said that there were no deaths in the state so far and added that the government was committed to ensure that the least human rights violations take place.
Poonawalla’s counsel, Menaka Guruswamy, said that at least hospitals, schools and police stations should be allowed to function. In response, Justice Shah said: “We have to give them [Centre] some time too. It is a serious situation.”
Guruswamy then asked the court to hear the petition in two weeks’ time. When the judges questioned why it must be kept pending, she said: “They [the Centre] cannot say no accountability. If their intention is to make Kashmiris full citizens, then they cant restrict them totally.” The court then acceded to keep the petition pending.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal on Tuesday said that prohibitory conditions have been relaxed in various parts of Kashmir, and the Jammu region is “almost entirely” free of restrictions, PTI reported. He added that the administration is hopeful of further relaxations in the security clampdown after the dress rehearsal for the August 15 Independence Day celebrations conclude.
Poonawalla had said in his plea that he did not want to express any opinion on the decision to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status but sought the withdrawal of curbs on public movement and gatherings.
Poonawalla also wanted the release of former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who are under house arrest. “Arrest of separatist leaders may be totally justifiable but meeting out the same treatment to mainstream political workers who have given their blood and sweat for the integration of State with Union of India is highly questionable and deserves to be condemned,” he added.
On August 8, the top court had refused to urgently hear the petition. Justice NV Ramana had asked Poonawalla to mention it before Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.