Kashmir: Personal liberty to be balanced against National Security, Justice Gavai

Kashmir: Personal liberty to be balanced against National Security, Justice Gavai

Shruti Mahajan

The personal liberty of individuals needs to be balanced against the concerns of national security, the Supreme Court observed today while hearing the petitions relating to the media and communications blackout in Kashmir.

The three-Judge Bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai was hearing a petition filed by the editor of Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin when the remark was made.

Pointing out that the Kashmir valley has experienced a sustained media and communications blackout for 57 days, Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde said that the situation is far from normal. He said,

“Liberty does not mean mere animal existence. Right to communicate with loved ones is included in the right to liberty.”

This submission was met with an immediate response by Justice BR Gavai, who said,

Personal liberty will have to be balanced against the requirements of national security.

Senior Counsel Meenakshi Arora submitted that the petitions and applications challenging this blackout raise the larger question of fundamental rights.

“Can fundamental rights be pushed under the carpet?”, Arora asked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the Centre told the Court that the rationale behind imposing the media blackout has been highlighted in the Centre’s counter-affidavit that was filed before the Court today.

The Court has directed the Centre to file its response to all the applications tagged with Bhasin’s petition. The matter will be heard next on October 16.

The plea filed by Bhasin highlights that the shutdown of internet and telecommunication and allied restrictions violates the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, the right of the public to information, and the right to practice one’s profession.

The other pleas challenging the information and communications blackout in Jammu & Kashmir, which have been listed before the same three-judge Bench, include a plea against the alleged illegal detention of children by security personnel and a plea for the restoration of landlines and high-speed internet in hospitals and medical establishments.

[Read Order]

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