The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government to ensure that normalcy is restored in the state without compromising national interest, Bar and Bench reported. The Supreme Court also asked the Centre to ensure that people have access to welfare services.

The top court was hearing petitions filed by Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times, and political commentator Tehseen Poonawalla. Bhasin had challenged the restrictions on media in the state, while Poonawalla had challenged the security clampdown.

Jammu and Kashmir was put under prohibitory orders and an unprecedented communications blackout on August 4. Prohibitory orders are being lifted gradually but the communications blockade remains in most parts.

As the hearing began on Monday, the bench said the matter could be dealt with by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court as the shutdown was a local matter.

Arguing against Bhasin’s plea, the Centre said that a media centre had been set up for using mobile phones, internet and telephones, and it was operational from 8 am to 11 pm for mediapersons, Live Law reported. “All channels and newspapers are working properly, except this newspaper,” Attorney General KK Venugopal said, referring to Bhasin’s newspaper.

The Centre told the bench that all other newspapers in the state were operating and the government had been “offering all kinds of assistance”, PTI reported. The government said media passes had been given for access to restricted areas. The Centre also told the court that television channels such as Doordarshan and some private ones, apart from FM networks, were working in the state.

In connection with Poonawalla’s petition, the Centre claimed that restrictions had been lifted in over 88% of the police stations in Kashmir division. Venugopal also told the court that not a single bullet had been fired so far since restrictions were imposed. The court asked the Centre to submit an affidavit with all details of the measures being taken in the state.

On August 28, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond to Bhasin’s petition within seven days. Earlier, on August 16, the Supreme Court had said it would like to give the government a little more time to review the situation.

Meanwhile, the top court also agreed to hear a petition filed by the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference challenging the President’s Rule in the state and the withdrawal of the special status, PTI reported. However, the bench refused to add any other new petitions in similar matters about the state, and asked petitioners to file impleadment applications in already-filed pleas.

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