Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that notifications and orders shutting down mobile, landline and internet services in Jammu and Kashmir were “illegal and unconstitutional”, PTI reported. The Centre had imposed prohibitory orders and cut off all connectivity in the state following the abrogation of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5.
On Tuesday, advocate Vrinda Grover, representing Bhasin, told a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana that even after 90 days, prepaid mobile services, internet, SMS and data services were unavailable in the Kashmir Valley, affecting the working of the media.
Bhasin has challenged the restrictions imposed in the Valley. Grover told the court that the state has the power to put reasonable restrictions on the rights conferred under Article 19 of the Constitution, but it cannot extinguish the right itself.
“There is absolute communications shutdown from August 4,” Grover told the court on behalf of her client. “It requires to be tested by this court. Yes, there can be reasonable restrictions on rights under Article 19 but the same cannot extinguish the right itself.”
Grover said that while authorities had ordered the reduction of speed of 3G and 4G data, but the whole internet service had been shut down instead. “There is complete non-application of mind while issuing these orders. These are bald orders,” Grover said, adding that they were also “illegal and unconstitutional”.
Grover said that while authorities claim that internet services have been shut down to prevent them being used by “anti-national elements”, their own data shows that terrorist incidents have reduced in the Valley. She wondered if there was any relationship between internet use and terrorism.
“Ninety days are over now,” Grover said. “The word temporary will lose its meaning if the restrictions still continue.” The lawyer added that according to the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, and Indian Telegraph Act, restrictions could be imposed only for a temporary period.
Responding to the court’s query, Grover said the freedom of the press can be curbed only through a specific order, not general instructions. The lawyer also wondered why landline services had been shut down if the authorities had apprehensions only about internet misuse.
“But Wi-Fi uses landline. At our residence, we use landline for Wi-Fi,” the bench said. In response, the advocate argued that landline services do not require the internet at all.
On October 24, the Supreme Court had asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration how long it intends to continue the restrictions, including internet ban, in the Valley. It had said authorities can impose restrictions in national interest but they have to be reviewed from time to time.
Earlier in the day, the top court directed the four-member Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a fresh report on the alleged detention of children by addressing the matter independently. The court was hearing a petition filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha, seeking a probe on the detention of minors since August 5.
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