Review internet suspension in J&K forthwith rules Supreme Court
New Delhi, Jan 10: The Supreme Court has ordered the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review all restrictive orders within a week. All orders are to be put in public domain which can then be challenged in a court of law, the court also said.
The observation was made while delivering the verdict on a batch of petitions on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.
The court also said that all orders of restriction under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure should be published so as to enable affected persons to challenge it. The bench also said that temporary suspension of internet, basic freedom of citizens should not be arbitrary. It should be open to judicial review. The internet suspension should be reviewed the court also said.
The court said that freedom of internet is a fundamental right under Article 19(1), which deals with free speech. Trade and commerce through internet is protected under Article 19(1) (g), which deals with fundamental right to conduct trade and commerce.
The court said that internet services are intrinsic to right to free speech and cannot be suspended without providing reason and duration there of. Certain trade and commerce are completely dependant on the Internet. Such trade and freedom to practise then is a constitutionality protected as fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g). Mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be a reason for Internet suspension, the Bench headed by Justice N V Ramanna also said.
On the use of Section 144, the court said it cannot be used as a tool to oppress difference of opinion. The court also disapproved of the refusal by the administration to produce all relevant documents issued in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Magistrates while passing restrictive orders under Section 144 should apply their minds and have a sense of proportionality between danger to security and liberty of citizens. Repetitive orders without giving reasons and not based on material facts will be violative, the court also observed.
The court also observed that suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedom cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power. Expressions through the internet and social media has contemporary relevance the Supreme Court also said.
The Supreme Court was delivering its verdict on a batch of pleas, including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging the restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.
On November 21, the Centre had justified restrictions imposed in J&K after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and said that due to the preventive steps taken, neither a single life was lost nor a single bullet fired.