The Supreme Court Monday heard a clutch of petitions pertaining to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 that gave it special status. The region has been under a clampdown since August 5 when the Centre removed special status of J&K and divided the state into two Union Territories.
In key decisions taken today, the court allowed Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to travel to four districts in Kashmir and directed the Centre and the J&K government to ensure that normalcy is restored in the state. Here are the top developments in the Supreme Court today
Hearing a plea over allegations that the Jammu and Kashmir High Court was not accessible for litigants, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said he will visit Srinagar to oversee the functioning of the HC “if necessary”.
“If you are saying so, we are bound to take serious note of it. Tell us why it is very difficult for people to approach the high court. Is anybody stopping the people from going to the high court? It is very very serious,” said the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for two child rights activists, told the bench that it is very difficult for people in the state to access the high court there.
“You are saying that you cannot go to the high court. We have called a report from Chief Justice of the high court. If required, I will myself go there,” the CJI said, while requesting the Chief Justice of the high court to file report.
While granting Ghulam Nabi Azad permission to visit four districts — Srinagar, Jammu, Baramulla, Anantnag–the bench comprising justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer told the Congress leader to keep his visit apolitical and not host any rally or event. He is, however, allowed to interact with people during his visit to the Valley.
Azad, who represents Jammu and Kashmir in Rajya Sabha, had attempted to visit the state thrice in August but was barred by the authorities each time and sent back to Delhi.
While hearing a petition by Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin who said she was not able to publish her newspaper from Srinagar, the Supreme Court directed the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government to “make all endeavours to restore normalcy in Kashmir Valley,” but added that restoration would be on a “selective basis” keeping in mind national interest.
When the top court was told about the alleged “shutdown” of mobile and Internet services in Kashmir Valley, the bench said these issues could be dealt with by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
“It is not about just one or two newspapers. They are saying that there is a general communication shutdown. We would like to know whether it is a breakdown or shutdown and for what reasons,” the bench observed.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, informed the court that the petition does not “appear to be genuine”, giving details on steps taken for restoration of suspended services in the Valley. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for J&K, told the bench that “not a single bullet has been fired after August 5 in the state.”
“You put in these things in an affidavit,” the bench told Venugopal, adding, “In the meantime, we trust you (government) that you will try to restore the services and normalcy”.
The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government on a plea seeking production of former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah, who is allegedly in detention.
Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko, who said he is a close friend of Abdullah for the past four decades, has contended that constitutional rights conferred on the National Conference leader had been deprived of on account of “illegal detention without any authority of law”.