Highway Ban ‘Review’ On May 6, Govt Informs HC

SRINAGAR — The government on Wednesday informed Jammu and Kashmir High Court that it was “reviewing” on May 6 the ban on civilian traffic for two days a week on the highway.

‘Darbar move’ offices are opening here and also elections to parliament are concluding in Kashmir with polling scheduled in Pulwama and Shopian district in the last leg of the 3-phased polls for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat on May 06.  

On April 22, the government issued order to announce there would be no ban on civilian traffic on Wednesdays from Baramulla to Srinagar with the completion of the elections for Baramulla and Jammu parliamentary constituency.   

“After re-assessment of the movement requirements of the (government) forces upon successful conduct of polling in the Parliamentary Constituencies of Baramulla and Jammu on 11th of April, 2019 and Srinagar & Kathua on 18lh April 2019, it is hereby ordered that the regulation of civilian traffic between Srinagar & Baramulla, on National Highway-44, would now be limited to only one day a week, viz; Sunday,” the Home department said in partial modification of its order (No. 353-Home (ISA) of 2019) issued on April 3.

As clubbed petitions came up for hearing before a division bench of the court on Wednesday, state counsel informed that the Government is going to hold a review meeting on May 6 with regard to highway ban.

Senior Additional Advocate General B A Dar further submitted that a matter regarding the issue is also pending before Supreme Court and the top court has issued notice returnable in two weeks.

Senior counsel R A Jan submitted that a legal point was involved in the matter as to whether  home secretary has power to pass an order directing restrictions of civilians movement on highway.

The Court reluctantly granted week’s time to the government to file reply to all pleas with observation government had to defend the ban.

Last week, the high court sought compliance of its orders, directing authorities to ensure that no difficulty is caused to any commuter or common person who is seeking to move on the thoroughfare during two days to reach his place of business or work.

During the hearing, the counsel for the petitioners had alleged that a decision taken at the divisional commissioner’s level, which provided that in case of any requirements for local traffic movement for any emergencies, travel passes will be issued, was not being adhered to.

Senior AAG B A Dar had sought time to file a response on the allegations.

“Let the counsel for respondents file their response as regards the steps being undertaken to ensure that the decision taken at the divisional commissioner’s level is adhered to,” the court had said.

The bench had also sought a response by April 24 to its earlier order on allowing the movement of people who need to travel on the highway in order to earn their livelihood.

The government had from April 7 started imposing restrictions ordered on April 3 on civilian traffic twice a week—Wednesday and Sunday–on the highway, considered as lifeline and it’s the only surface link connecting Kashmir Valley with rest of the globe.  

On April 9, the state’s top court, after submissions by senor advocates R.A. Jan and Jahangir Iqbal Ganai and all the other counsels present in the Court that the government need to take special care to ensure that the commuters who are common people may not face any difficulty in their movement for earning their livelihood. 

B A Dar, the Sr. AAG, had submitted that the decision taken in the serial No. 2 as noted in the Minutes of Meeting held on April 9 is intended to obviate any difficulty to such commuters.

“It shall be ensured that no difficulty is caused to any commuter or common person who is seeking to move on the highway to reach his place of business or work,” the court had said.

To Implement home department’s order regarding “regulation” of civil traffic during movement of government forces Convoys on the Highway, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir and several directions were issued. As per the directives, every Deputy Commissioner was asked to nominate a Nodal Officer at the District level whose number shall be duly publicized who will issue travel passes after making sufficient verification. “Travel Passes shall be issued, in case there are any requirements for local traffic movement for any emergency. However, in case of medical emergencies the ambulances carrying patients with proper medical prescriptions should be allowed after proper checkings. Also in case of employees their identity cards will be treated as travel passes.”

Deputy Commissioners were asked also prepare a list of schools which are located alongside the National Highway and issue necessary instructions to Zonal Magistrates/Police Officers to allow school buses ferrying students having proper I-Cards on National Highway on days of restriction. The students who are scheduled to appear in the examinations on the days of restrictions should be allowed to travel on National Highway on such days after proper security and their Admit Cards should be treated as their Travel Passes, the divisional commissioner had said. “Deputy Commissioners shall prepare a list of employees who need to travel on the National Highway on the specific days for performing of their duties and then issue necessary instructions to the Magistrates/Police Officers deployed on NHIA to treat their I-Cards as travel passes for their unrestricted movement.”

The Deputy Commissioners were asked to conduct a survey to ascertain the number of Hospitals. business establishments, offices falling on the National Highway and ensure that the staff of the Hospitals/Offices/shopkeepers are issued travel passes so that they can reach their destinations without any hassle. Similarly those orchardists/horticulturalists whose orchards are adjacent to the National Highway shall also be provided travel passes so that they can access their orchards without any problem. “ Deputy Commissioner. Pulwama/Anantnag/Srinagar and Baramulla will appoint Zonal Magistrates for specific length of Highway who will along with their Police counterparts respond to spontaneous emergencies, if any, arising in their zones. For this purpose Zonal Magistrates shall carry sufficient number of travel passes to be issued to the concerned on the spot.”

People possessing air tickets shall be treated as passes so that they can reach Airport without any problem: Similarly tourists shall also be issued travel passes by the nominated Nodal Officer for their hassle free travel, it said. “Movement of VVIPs shall remain beyond the restrictions.” These restrictions shall be only for NHIA and lateral or parallel roads shall remain beyond the ambit of this order, it said. District Magistrates were asked to deploy sufficient Magistrates at all the critical/crossing points who will along-with their counterparts from Police work together for smooth implementation of the order.

 “It appears that the respondents are proceeding in the matter keeping in view the safety and security of not only the Security Forces convoy, but also of the citizens of the State. It is also noteworthy that the order dated 03.04.2019 is confined and is of limited duration between 4:00 am to 5:00 pm and effective between 03.04.2019 to 31.05.2019,” the court had said, adding,” The decisions taken at the senior level meeting held on 05.04.2019 and 09.04.2019, manifest that the respondents are themselves cognizant of the convenience of the citizens of the State of J&K. It appears that every effort is being made to ensure safety and the security of not only the Security Forces but also of the citizens as also their convenience.”


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