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A month after the the media and communications blackout was imposed in Kashmir, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the petitions challenging the same on September 16.
Senior Counsel Vrinda Grover, appearing for Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin, told the Court that a month after the blackout, media was not being allowed to function in the valley.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta objected to this submission, calling the claims false. He listed a number of newspapers that have been publishing from Srinagar.
“She chooses not to publish her newspaper from Srinagar”, Mehta submitted.
Without passing any orders today, the Court fixed the date for final disposal of the petitions concerning restrictions in the valley on September 16.
The Court has also tagged the petition of a Jamia student who was allowed by the Court last week to visit his parents in Anantnag with Bhasin’s petition. He had submitted his affidavit upon returning and the same also details the situation on the ground.
In the previous hearing on August 28, the Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer had issued notice in petitions filed by both Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin and activist Tehseen Poonawalla. Both petitions raise the issue of the media and communications clampdown in the valley since August.
The petition filed by Bhasin, who is the Executive Editor of regional newspaper Kashmir Times, contends that the shutdown of internet and telecommunication, the severe restrictions on mobility and the sweeping curtailment on information sharing, at a time when significant political and constitutional changes are being forged by the Parliament to the status of Jammu and Kashmir, violate the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, and the right to practice one’s profession.
In this backdrop, Bhasin argues for the withdrawal of government restrictions in the State, terming the lockdown to be an abuse of State power.
Poonawalla had also moved the Court praying for the withdrawal of restrictions imposed following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution. He also prayed for the release of detained leaders in Jammu & Kashmir and for the appointment of a judicial commission to ascertain the ground reality.
The Press Council of India had also filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the matter, taking the stance that the communications blackout is in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
The communications blackout has been in place since August 5, when the Presidential Order revoking the special status granted to the State of Jammu & Kashmir was passed.
Bhasin was represented today by Senior Counsel Vrinda Grover, while Poonawala was represented by Senior Counsel Meenakshi Arora. Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented the Union of India.