J&K:Supreme Court orders review of all restrictions within a week

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The supreme Court on Friday asked the J&K administration to review of restrictions like the basic rights, free movement and the removal of suspension of Internet in the union territory. After the abrogation of the special status under Article 370.

The apex court termed the access to Internet as the fundamental right and directed the government to review suspension of Internet in J&K immediately. As it is violative of law since the freedom of Internet and basic rights comes on Article 19(1) of the constitution and therefore should be revoked right away.

The verdict from SC comes after Anuradha Bhasin ‘kashmir times editor’ & Senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad filed petition questioning the restrictions in Kashmir and the shutdown of Internet and telecom services. As per the petitioners, the trade through Internet met a great loss and the small businesses which bank on Internet failed heavily even the medical care also suffered during the lock down.

The Court said, The objective of a restriction must be legitimate rather than cavalier. Authorities must necessarily consider an alternative and least restrictive mechanism before opting to restrict rights. Every decision to impose restriction should be backed by sufficient material and was amenable to judicial review.

This Internet shutdown in J&K has cost the economy over 2.6 billion dollars and over 1 lakh people lost their jobs. It has been the longest shutdown in any democracy in Kashmir.

The Court has asked the government to consider restoring websites and e-facilities with minimal Internet abuse. And complete ban should only be done at the time of emergency.Any restrictions on such fundamental rights should be inclusive of the test of proportionality.

SC said,”mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason for internet suspension”.

Internet services are intrinsic to right to freedom of speech and it can be suspended without reason and providing time duration, said The court.

Justice NV Ramanna, who read out the judgement, began by quoting the famous opening lines of Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

“We don’t delve into what government did in Kashmir but our limited concern is to find a balance regarding security and liberty of people. We ensure citizens rights are saved and protected” said, Justice Ramana.

Repetitive orders under Section 144 CrPC was an abuse of power, Justice Ramana observed.

Ghulam Nabi Azad responded to the SC verdict,”We welcome the judgment. For the first time the SC has talked about how people of J&K feel. I would like to thank the SC for this historic decision. The people were waiting for this judgment, specially the people of J&K.”

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