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SC defers hearing on plea to remove curbs on media in J&K

Appearing for Bhasin, advocate Vrinda Grover told the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer, that there is a “complete information blackout because of the communication blackout”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: August 17, 2019 4:19:56 am
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The Supreme Court on Friday deferred a hearing on petitions challenging revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir and noted that they were “defective”, even as it decided to wait for some time before acting on a plea for restoration of communication facilities in the region.

“We would like to give it some time…. I read in papers (that) landlines and broadband services will be restored by today evening,” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, heading a three-judge bench, said while hearing the petition by Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of the newspaper Kashmir Times.

Appearing for Bhasin, advocate Vrinda Grover told the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer, that there is a “complete information blackout because of the communication blackout”. As a result of this, she submitted, Kashmir Times could not be published from the Valley, and that it would be good if at least press cards are respected.

Grover submitted that the media is the fourth pillar of democracy, and information should be allowed to come out.

Justice Bobde said he had had a telephone conversation with the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir and that BSNL lines were working well.

Grover replied that only select lines, and not all, are working.

Intervening, Attorney General K K Venugopal said the paper was being published from Jammu without any problem, and that the administration has not placed any curbs on any publication.

“The situation is dynamic… in the course of the next few days, it will be settled,” Venugopal said. He advised caution and said it will not be proper to “jump the gun”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta suggested that the matter should be left to the security forces. “Your lordships can trust the security forces…. They are taking stock of the situation.”

The court adjourned the hearing but did not fix a date on when it be taken up next. The bench said it would take a call on this on the administrative side.

Earlier, while hearing petitions challenging revocation of special status, the bench pulled up advocate M L Sharma, who had filed the first petition. The bench asked why he had filed a defective petition. “What kind of petition is this? What are your prayers? What are your pleadings,” the court asked him.

“We should have dismissed your petition as not maintainable. But we are not doing that as that will affect other petitions,” the CJI said, pointing out that there were four other petitions on the issue. The CJI said, “I read the petition and could not make out what it was.” He said the counsel should have either withdrawn the plea or amended it. To this, Sharma said he will amend the petition.

The court later allowed Sharma to amend his petition.

SC extends admission deadline

The Supreme Court on Friday extended till September 15 the time for admission of students from Jammu and Kashmir selected under the Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme to under-graduate courses in colleges across the country.

A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit extended the deadline in view of the prevailing situation.

The state’s Standing Counsel Shoeb Alam had filed the plea on behalf of the J&K Higher Education Department.

Under the scheme, 5,869 scholarships are offered to deserving students from J&K for the academic year 2019-20.

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