It has been more than 157 days since the internet services were curbed completely in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir as an aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 A that granted special status to this former state.
Previously, on November 21, 2019, the central authorities justified the ban saying it was absolutely necessary to obstruct any kind of terror activity, however the ban went much longer that what would have been normal.
On Friday, the apex court of India has given the verdict that internet accessibility is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution that ensures rights to freedom of expression, association, movement, trade and assembly. The SC has further asked the administration in Jammu and Kashmir to review all curbs there in a week and put them in the public domain.
Keeping in observation that the court cannot bend towards political decisions taken, the SC said, “We have to balance liberty and security concerns so that right to life can be secured in best possible manner.”
The Supreme Court further added, “The pendulum can’t swing in any extreme direction. We are here only here to ensure citizens get liberty and get security.”
The bench, comprising justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai and headed by Justice NV Ramana asked authorities to immediately act on resorting essential government websites, limited e-banking facilities and other important services in those regions where internet services will take time to be restored.
Further, the judges said that a complete clampdown should only be imposed when it is necessary and unavoidable and the authorities must abide to the doctrine well before imposing any such prohibition in future.
Along with the prominent leader of Congress, Ghulam Nabi Azad, petitions were filed by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, and others questioning restrictions in Kashmir. As the court heard all these petition, the judges criticised the repeated use of Section 144, that was more of a practice implemented in the colonial era in order to prohibit public gathering. “It can’t be used as a tool to oppress difference of opinion,” the judges said.
This verdict indeed comes as a massive relief for all the citizens of J&K who have going through immense difficulties for the past five months. Now, it is expected that the basic communication and transaction facilities will be restored with immediate effect.
It is also a step through which people’s trust on the court of law has been restored as the verdict has been given in favour of constitutional rights.