New Delhi, Nov 5 The Supreme Court on Tuesday started hearing the arguments against the restriction imposed on communication and media in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370. The counsel of a J&K-based newspaper termed notifications and orders to shut telephony and internet services as “illegal and unconstitutional .
The three-judge bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising Justices SA Bopde and SA Nazeer, were hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by editor of Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin and political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla challenging the lockdown in the state.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, representing Executive Editor of Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin, who has challenged these restrictions in the Valley, said even after 90 days, since revocation of Article 370, communication services — data, internet, pre-paid mobiles and SMS — were not operational and were impacting the workings of the media.
The counsel arguing before a Bench, headed by Justice N.V. Ramana, said although state could put reasonable restrictions on the rights conferred under Article 19, but it was not supposed to curb the right of free speech.
“Since August 4, there is communication shutdown. In this modern age, access to the internet is equivalent to fundamental right. It’s essential and basic attribute for news reporting. Removing internet curtails rights as well”, Grover contended before the court.
She also submitted there was no link between prohibition of internet services and terrorist violence. “Is there any proximate nexus between internet and terrorist violence? 90 days have passed. Till today, data services have not been restored. The word ‘temporary’ will lose significance if restrictions continue”, she said referring to provisions of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 and Indian Telegraph Act, which suggested restrictions could be imposed only for temporary period.
Arguing that the press is a special category and constitutionally protected, Grover said the state could restrict my free speech, but the order had to be well-reasoned.
To this Justice Ramana remarked, “So, the general order regarding restrictions in J&K doesn’t apply to press, unless there is a special order.”
Grover said the authorities were supposed to downgrade the internet speed of 3G and 4G data, but they shut internet services.
On October 24, the apex court had asked the J&K administration for how long it intended to continue the curbs, including internet blockade, in the Valley. The PIL filed on 10 August had sought immediate directions for the removal of restrictions imposed on media, communication and the free movement of people.
The bench adjourned the case before lunch and ordered that the bench shall continue hearing the arguments tomorrow.