The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Jammu and Kashmir administration that it will have to respond to each and every question raised about the restrictions imposed on the people of the Union Territory following the Centre’s decision to abrogate the special status under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, The Hindu reported.
The court was hearing a petition by Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad against restrictions on the media and freedom of movement imposed in the Union Territory.
The top court clarified at the beginning of the hearing that except for one habeas corpus petition, it does not have any detention matters pending before it. “We are currently hearing two petitions filed by Anuradha Bhasin and Ghulam Nabi Azad which are on restrictions in freedom of movement, press, etc,” it said.
A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir government. The judge said the petitioners in the case have argued in detail and he will have to answer all questions.
“Your counter affidavit does not help us to come to any conclusion,” the bench comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai told Mehta. “Don’t give the impression that you are not giving enough attention to the case.”
Mehta argued that the allegations made by the petitioners were incorrect and said he will respond to them in detail. The solicitor general claimed he did not file a status report in the top court as the ground situation in the region was changing every single day, and he wanted to show the exact status at the time of his submission.
He said the petitioners’ argument that there was no situation necessitating a shut down on August 5 is not true. “They made a hyperbolic argument that clampdown brought the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir was under a shadow of doubt,” he added. “Instead it [restrictions] was done in discharge of government’s duty to protect the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. Rights have not been taken away, but conferred on them now.”
Mehta said India was a victim of cross-border terrorism. “Terrorists infiltrate not physically but digitally,” he told the court. “Situation in Jammu and Kashmir [is] not being allowed to stabilise both from across the border and by local people with separatist tendencies. Situation is normal today. All of them are happy.”
“I can show videos of hospitals, public places where normal life is going on,” Mehta said. “Everything is normal. I don’t know why the petitioners are presenting such a grim picture.”
He said restrictions were relaxed based on individual assessment of each local area in the region. “Petitioners claim 100% clampdown. This is not an en-masse blockage. Restrictions were progressively relaxed even when there was threat perception but government was confident about tackling it.”
Mehta said that 43 lakh kilolitres of petrol and 11.59 lakh metric tonnes of apples have been sold. “The situation has been so beautifully handled that even a farmer does not lose even a single penny,” he claimed.
He said the petitioners do not represent the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Mehta claimed 99% of children in the Union Territory have attended their exams and tourists have been regularly visiting the region. “Common man is not suffering,” he claimed. “He is taking best advantage of Ayushman Bharat scheme.”
The solicitor general said the Army and security forces have done a commendable job. “Their effort has to be acclaimed,” he told the top court. “Petitioners tried to trivialise, saying you can put curfew across the country and take credit for not a single murder being committed.”
The Supreme Court will hear the matter next on November 25, LiveLaw reported.