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Curbs in Kashmir: There Has to be Balance Between Personal Liberty & National Security, Says SC

The top court's remarks came after the Jammu and Kashmir administration said that 100 per cent landlines are working in the Valley and their is no restriction on the movement of people during the day time.

Updated:October 1, 2019, 5:27 PM IST
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Curbs in Kashmir: There Has to be Balance Between Personal Liberty & National Security, Says SC
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com

New Delhi: There has to be a balance between personal liberty of an individual and national security, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday while hearing pleas that have raised issue of curbs in the Kashmir Valley after the abrogation of provision of Article 370.

The top court's remarks came after the Jammu and Kashmir administration said that 100 per cent landlines are working in the Valley and their is no restriction on the movement of people during the day time.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for J&K administration, told a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana that if mobile and internet facilities were resorted in the Valley, fake WhatsApp messages would be circulated from "across the border" and it might incite violence there.

Several petitioners, including executive editor of Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin, activist Tehseen Poonawala and Foundation of Media Professionals, through its president Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, claimed that there was complete lockdown of communication networks and restrictions on movement of journalists.

The bench, also comprising justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, sought response from the Centre and asked the petitioners to file their rejoinder and listed the matter in the second week of November.

"There has to be a balance between personal liberty of a person and the national security," the bench said, while dealing with a batch of nine petitions pertaining to restrictions in the Valley.

At the outset, the top court dealing with the petition of CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said it was habeas corpus (writ directing production of a person in detention before the court) petition and he has already been granted indulgence by the court.

"You have moved a habeas corpus petition. That prayer no longer survives as that person — Mohd Yousuf Tarigami — has himself moved the apex court challenging the abrogation of Article 370. It was a limited question. What further relief do you want?" the bench told senior advocate Raju Ramachandaran, representing Yechury.

Ramachandaran said he wanted that either the detention of Tarigami be declared illegal or the authority be asked to justify his detention after August 5. To this, the bench said that Jammu and Kashmir High Court is functioning smoothly and the petitioner can approach there for relief.

"If you want this petition to be heard here, then it will come in due course of time and if you want your petition to be heard urgently, then you shall go to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court," the bench said.

Ramachandaran insisted that the matter be heard by the top court after which the bench directed the Centre to file its response and listed it for hearing in November.

In another related matter, Senior advocate Huzefa A Ahmadi, appearing for Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, said as per the court orders, Azad had visited the state and thus, his first prayer in the petition has been complied with.

Ahmadi said his other prayers still remain and the authorities should tell the court as under what provisions of law the restrictions have been imposed on movement of people in the Valley.

Mehta told the bench that during the day time, there are no restrictions on movement of people in the Valley and curbs are imposed depending upon situation during the night time. The bench asked Mehta to file an affidavit related to the restrictions on movement of people within two weeks.

The apex court also refused to entertain a petition filed by Sameer Kaul seeking restoration of internet communication services in hospitals and directed him to approach the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Dealing with the petitions of Bhasin, Poonawalla and Foundation of Media Professionals, the top court questioned the number of intervention applications filed in the case. It restrained filing of any fresh intervention application in the issue related to restriction imposed in the valley.

Mehta questioned the locus of Poonawalla and said he is a "TV personality and not the resident of the state". To this, Justice Gavai apparently referring to Judge BH Loya death case said, "Is this Tehseen Poonawalla the same person, who has levelled certain allegation against us in the Nagpur case?".

Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for Poonawalla said she is not in knowhow of any such incident, but the issue of restrictions in Kashmir, which is on its 57th day, is a serious matter and needs to be addressed.

She stated that they are aggrieved with the complete shutdown in the valley as people are being forced to suffer as most of the hospitals are in Srinagar. "Under what notification this lockdown was done in Kashmir valley, the government must tell the court," she said.

Mehta denied any such claims and said hospitals are working smoothly in the valley and lakhs of people have availed the medical facilities since August 5 till mid September.

"There are no restrictions on health facilities and all the hospitals are working smoothly. These issues are being raised to serve some other interests," he said, adding that if the internet services are restored then there will be circulation of fake news.

He said that internet kiosks are being set up in various areas for the people and journalists. The bench, while listing all these matters related to restrictions in Kashmir in the month of November, asked the Centre to file its reply on these petitions.

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