Hearing the petitions challenging the restrictions placed in Kashmir, the Supreme Court Thursday told the Jammu and Kashmir administration that it will have to respond to each and every question raised on the situation following the abrogation of Article 370.
A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the administration, that petitioners challenging the restrictions have argued in detail and he will have to answer all questions.
“Mr. Mehta you have to answer each and every question raised by the petitioners who have argued in detail. Your counter-affidavit does not help us to come to any conclusion. Don’t give the impression that you are not giving enough attention to the case,” said the bench, comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai.
Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora, while making her submissions for intervenors, cited the Hong Kong High Court order lifting government ban on protestors wearing face masks. “The situation in Hong Kong was far worse, far more adverse than what we had in Kashmir. There were daily protests,” she said.
To this, Justice Ramana said, “The Supreme Court of India is far more superior in upholding the fundamental rights of the citizens.” Subsequently, Justice Gavai asked Arora whether Hong Kong faced an issue of cross border terrorism. To this, she replied, “if it was really an issue of cross border terror, restrictions would have been only in selected areas and not the entire state.”
Mehta, on the other hand, said the pleas alleging “complete clampdown” was incorrect and irrelevant. He further said the rights were not taken away from the people of J&K, but instead were conferred for the first time in 70 years.
Buttressing his argument, Mehta said, “The Right to Education Act was not applicable to J&K. But no public-spirited person came to the court and said our children cannot study. Now they say the lack of internet is a curb on the freedom of speech and expression.”
Mehta continued: “Even on August 5, there were no restrictions on mobile communication in seven districts. 917 schools in places where no law and order problems apprehended were never shut on August 5. It shows action of authorities was not mechanical but there was application of mind.”
At the outset of the hearing, the top court clarified that except for one petition it does not have any detention matters pending before it. “We are not hearing any detention matters with regard to Jammu and Kashmir. 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, adding that only one habeas corpus petition is pending. It said only one habeas corpus (against detention of a business man) is pending because the petitioner had simultaneously moved before the JK High Court and the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Home Minister Amit Shah had maintained that the situation is “completely normal” in the Valley. He told the Rajya Sabha that prohibitory orders under Section 144 are not imposed in any of the 195 police stations of Jammu and Kashmir, except between 8 pm and 6 am. He also said that school attendance stands at 98 per cent, and that a call would be taken on resuming internet services based on inputs from the J&K administration.
With PTI inputs
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