The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved it verdict on pleas challenging the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, reported Bar and Bench. The bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, which was hearing a clutch of petitions including those filed by Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, did not give any date for the verdict.
The Centre had on August 5 abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, imposed a curfew there, and divided it into the two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. While postpaid mobile services have resumed in Kashmir, internet remains blocked.
In their final arguments submitted on Wednesday, advocate Vrinda Grover, representing Bhasin, and Azad’s lawyer Kapil Sibal said the restrictions were unreasonable. They also argued that restrictions imposed for such a long period of time can only be invoked by declaring an emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution. “Such restrictions cannot be imposed through orders of District Magistrates under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” they said, according to Live Law. “A declaration of emergency under Article 352 will be subjected to periodic review of the Parliament, and that way possibilities of abuse could be checked.”
The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration have justified the restrictions by saying that those were necessary in the interests of national security. “The broader picture must be looked at instead of the nitty-gritties of law,” said Attorney General KK Venugopal.
The case so far
On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration told the Supreme Court that curbs imposed on internet services in the Union Territory were justified as terrorists, separatists and the Pakistan Army were trying to instigate the Kashmiri people on social media to undertake jihad against the Indian state. The administration added that prohibitory orders were imposed as some people tried to incite others through “inflammatory speeches”.
“There were several other messages on social media from mainstream political parties and separatists which justified putting restrictions on the internet,” said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration. He added that social media cannot be controlled.
Mehta also claimed before the court that there were no restrictions on journalists. He said that on August 5, 1,184 passes were given to accredited journalists, while on August 11, around 450 passes were given to other journalists.
On November 21, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had told the Supreme Court that everything was “normal” in the Union Territory, and that the petitioners were presenting a “grim picture”. One of the judges on the bench told Mehta that the petitioners had submitted their arguments in detail, so he would have to reply to each question they had raised.
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.