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The Supreme Court today directed the Central government and the Jammu & Kashmir government to ensure that normalcy is restored in Jammu & Kashmir on a selective basis and without compromising on national interest.
The order was passed in petitions by Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin and impleadment application filed by political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla and Soyaib Qureshi challenging the shutdown in the J&K.
While Bhasin and Poonawalla contended that the shutdown had affected normal life in J&K, Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta rebutted the same citing facts and figures to the contrary.
The Court proceeded to direct the Government to ensure that normalcy is restored in the J&K and that hospitals, schools and public transport are made functional. However, the same is to be done keeping in mind the national interest.
The petition filed by Bhasin, who is the Executive Editor of the regional newspaper, Kashmir Times, contends that the shutdown of internet and telecommunication, the severe restrictions on mobilityand 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, the right of the public to information and the right to practice one’s profession.
In this backdrop, Bhasin argued for the withdrawal of Government restrictions in J&K terming the lockdown to be an abuse of State power.
Registering his objection to the “present grim and lockdown situation ongoing in J&K”, Poonawalla had also moved the Court earlier praying for the withdrawal of restrictions imposed following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, the release of detained leaders in Jammu and Kashmir and the appointment of a judicial commission to ascertain the ground reality in Jammu and Kashmir.
The communications blackout has been in place since August 5, when the Presidential Order revoking the Special Status granted to Jammu and Kashmir was passed.