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The Supreme Court today issued notice in Kashmir Times Editor, Anuradha Bhasin’s plea challenging the media restrictions and communications shut down in Jammu and Kashmir. The Court has sought the response of the Central Government in the matter. The Centre is expected to file its response within seven days.
The Court today also issued notice in the plea filed by activist Tehseen Poonawalla, which makes similar prayers for the relaxation of restrictions imposed in the valley. Poonawalla’s petition has been tagged with Bhasin’s petition.
Registering his objection to the “present grim and lockdown situation ongoing in J&K”, Poonawalla had moved the Court 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.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta today took objection to Poonawala’s petition, stating that he is an activist who makes television appearances. However, the Court did not entertain the objection and proceeded to issue notice returnable in seven days.
The matter was taken up today by a Special Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer.
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 argues for the withdrawal of Government restrictions in the State, terming the lockdown to be an abuse of State power.
The communications blackout has been in place since August 5, when the Presidential Order revoking the Special Status granted to the State of Jammu and Kashmir was passed.
When the matter came up before this Special Bench on August 16, the Court adjourned the case, intimating that the date if the next hearing would be decided on the administrative side.
Last week, the Press Council of India filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the matter, taking the stance that the communication blackout is in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
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.
[Read the Petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin]