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The Jammu and Kashmir Government has filed an additional affidavit asserting before the Supreme Court that nearly all restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir have been withdrawn.
Futher a reply has also been filed, whereby the Government has cited a report of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court which states that it has been functioning on a regular basis, to argue that submissions made in Court concerning litigant difficulties in accessing the High Court are false.
The matter was taken up today by a three-judge Bench comprising ofJustices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and BR Gavai. During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also asserted that 99% of restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir have been withdrawn, although the same was objected to by Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appeared for the petitioner side.
The Court was hearing a number of cases concerning restrictions imposed on the press and those relating to the communications shutdown in Kashmir. The highlights of the affidavits filed by the Government in the matter include the following.
99% restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir withdrawn
An additional affidavit filed in response to assertions made by Kashmir Times Editor Anuraddha Bhasin in her plea challenging restrictions on communications and movement in Jammu and Kashmir asserts that except for 8-10 police stations, movement restrictions have been completely removed. It The Government goes on to submit that over 99% of the area of Jammu and Kashmir.
Moreover, it has been submitted that telephone landlines have been fully restored and mobile phone facilities have been restored in Jammu and Ladakh and in Kupwara district. As far as mobile services are concerned, it is stated that since October 14, service has been restored in all post-paid mobile phones, irrespective of the telecom service provider, covering all 10 districts of Kashmir province.
Inter alia, the Government has contended that, contrary to the submissions made on behalf of Bhasin, all newspapers are being published from Srinagar as well. The Government has asserted that it is the petitioner’s choice not to publish the Kashmir Times from Srinagar.
The affidavit further states that even when restrictions were imposed in the interest of national security and public safety, the Government had ensured that supply of food, medicines and other necessities and access to hospitals were never interrupted.
Government orders on shut down cannot be shared with petitioners
In a rejoinder affidavit filed last month, Bhasin had alleged that the Government of India has suppressed relevant orders, documents and circulars concerning the internet and communications shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir.
In response, the Government’s additional affidavit states that orders were passed by competent authorities, which were being reviewed from time to time. These orders imposed temporary restrictions that were extended or rescinded depending upon the prevailing situation on the ground which are being reviewed on daily basis, it is further stated.
Notably, the Government adds that the reasons and justifications behind passing of such orders are never in the orders as recording such grounds in the order/s would defeat the very object of the order/s. The Government has asserted that its contents cannot be disclosed to the petitioners, although the same may be submitted to the Supreme Court alone for its perusal. All the same, the Government has asserted that the Court cannot sit in review over its validity.
Allegations that litigants cannot access High Court false
A reply has also been made in the petition filed by child rights activist Enakshi Ganguly against the alleged detention of children in the state. This reply registers objection to submissions made in Court that litigants were finding it difficult to access the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. In this regard, the reply cites a report issued by the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which stated that the High Court had been functioning regularly. In view of the same, the Government has argued that the petitioner’s assertion that litigants were finding it difficult to access the High Court is false.
Further, the Government has also objected to the petitioner “sitting in appeal” over the report prepared by the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir on the Court’s orders.
Earlier this month, the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Committee told the Supreme Court that as many as 144 minors have been detained by the authorities in the State of Jammu and Kashmir since August 5 this year. This list of 144 names also includes children as young as 9, 11, and 13 years of age.
Motives of the petitioners questionable
Both affidavits have been filed by Yasha Mudgal, Resident Commissioner of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir through advocate Shashi Juneja. In both affidavits, the Government has questioned the motives of the petitioners in approaching the Court with their respective contentions. In this regard, the affidavit filed in response to Bhasin’s plea states that the petitioner, for undisclosed reasons, has presented a grim picture of the situation which is not even near to the truth.
The Government goes on to contend that the petitioners cannot be allowed to undertake such a roving and fishing enquiry by calling for the Government’s orders under which steps were taken in Jammu and Kashmir in good faith and keeping public safety and security in mind.
Similar objection has also been made in the reply filed to Ganguly’s petition, stating that the false assertions therein has serious potential to create a serious prejudice against the judicial system in the State within and outside the country. The reply further calls on the Court to issue directions so that,
This affidavit also adds that the Government has only made a limited reply to the assertions made concerning litigant access to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, rather than a para wise objections to the averments made by the petitioner.
The hearing in the petitions will continue on November 5, after the Court reconvenes following the Diwali vacation.