Besides the petition by Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, the apex court had heard the petitions filed by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, and few intervenors questioning restrictions in the valley.
The Supreme Court on January 10 ordered the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review all the restrictions pertaining to Internet services in the region. Jammu and Kashmir is facing an Internet shutdown since August 5, 2019. Temporary suspension of Internet and curtailing basic freedoms of citizens should not be arbitrary and is open to judicial review, the three-judge Bench led by Justice Ramana said.
Noting that the freedom to use Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of free speech, and trade and commerce through Internet is protected under Article 19(1)(g), the apex court asked the administration to review Internet suspension in the Union Territory.
The court also said restrictive orders under Section 144 of Cr PC was not a tool to repress legitimate expressions of citizens. It ordered the J&K authorities to publish every order made under the section to enable challenges by affected persons. “Magistrates while passing restrictive orders under Section 144 CrPC should apply their minds and have a sense of proportionality between danger to security and liberty of citizens. Repetitive order without giving reasons and not based on material facts will be violative,” the judment authored by Justice Ramana observed.
The clamp-down followed the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and the bifurcation of the erstwhile State into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The Center had referred to terror violence in the Kashmir Valley and said that for the past so many years terrorists were being pushed through from across the border, local militants and separatist organisation had held the civilians captive in the region and it would have been “foolish” if the government would not have taken preventive steps to secure the lives of citizens.
Provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the erstwhile state of J&K, were abrogated by the Centre on August 5 last year.