How Long Restrictions Will Continue in Valley?, SC Asks J&K

Curbs in Srinagar (Photo: Abid Bhat / KO)

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration as to how long they intend to continue the restrictions, including internet blockade, imposed in the Valley following the abrogation of provision of Article 370.

The apex court, which was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the restrictions on movement and communication blockade imposed in the Valley, said the authorities may impose restrictions for national interest but they have to be reviewed from time to time.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana told Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who were appearing for the Centre and the J&K administration respectively, to come out with "clear" reply and find out other methods to deal with the issue.

Mehta told the bench, also comprising justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, that "the restrictions are being reviewed daily. In around 99 per cent area, no restrictions are there".

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for petitioner and Executive Editor of Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin, countered Mehta's submissions and said that internet shutdown still continues in the Valley even after more than two months.

"You have to come out with clear reply. You have to find out other methods to deal with it," the bench told Mehta, adding, "How long you want these restrictions?".

"You may impose restrictions for national interest but it has to be reviewed from time to time," the bench said.

On internet blockade, Mehta said "it would have trans-border implications as it may be linked to spurt in terror violence in the valley."

"Let us not have an ostrich approach," he said and referred to the 2016 protests in the valley after thew killing of  Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter.

Mehta said "when a militant was killed in Kashmir and internet was blocked for around three months, no petition was filed in the court against the restrictions."

Grover, however, referred to the affidavit filed by the J&K administration in the case and said they themselves have said that militancy-related violence in the valley has gone down since 2008.

The apex court said it would hear arguments on these pleas on November 5.

Besides the pleas filed by Bhasin and others challenging the restrictions imposed in the valley, the bench said it would hear other petitions which have raised issues, including alleged detention of minors in Kashmir, on November 5.

The top court had on October 16 asked the J&K administration to place before it the administrative orders imposing communication and other restrictions in the state following the abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

Bhasin had earlier told the bench that the Centre and J&K administration had suppressed from the top court the orders and notifications on the basis of which physical and communication restrictions were imposed in the valley.

However, the J&K administration had said those orders and notifications would be placed before the top court but those cannot be shared with the petitioners.

SC Asks J&K HC To Expeditiously Decide Plea On Detention

The Supreme Court asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Thursday to “expeditiously” pass order on a petition seeking directions to the authorities to produce before it some persons, including an NRI businessman, detained following the abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

The apex court, which was hearing a plea filed by the wife of a Malaysia-based NRI businessman against detention of her husband, said this after it was informed that the high court has reserved its order on the plea pending before it.

“Having regard to the fact that the matter involves personal liberty of an individual, we request the said high court to pass appropriate order on the habeas corpus petition expeditiously and in accordance with law,” a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana said.

The bench, also comprising Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice B R Gavai, deferred the matter pending before it to await the order of the high court.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by Asifa Mubeen, the wife of Mubeen Ahmad Shah, seeking quashing of the authorities’ August 7 order of detention along with the grounds of detention under section 8(1)(a) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978.

At the outset, the bench said according to the affidavit filed by the Jammu and Kashmir administration, the brother-in-law of the petitioner was present during the hearing of the plea pending before the high court.

Senior lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan, appearing for the Asifa Mubeen, told the court that petitioner before the high court was not authorised by them to file a plea there.

He said a US-based attorney had filed the petition before the high court seeking direction to the authorities to produce before the court some persons, including Mubeen Ahmad Shah, who were under detention.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, told the court that there is a valid order of detention and the petitioner should challenge it before the high court.

“We will wait for the high court’s order,” the bench said.

When Sankaranarayanan said that they want to argue the matter before the top court, the bench said, “We do not understand this. You want a relief that this man should be freed. If the high court decides this, why you do not want it?”.

It also asked the senior lawyer as to whether they had brought it to the notice of the high court that the US-based attorney had not taken their consent before filing the plea.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that the high court should deliver the order and if aggrieved, the petitioner can approach the top court in appeal.

“As prayed, liberty is granted to the senior counsel appearing for the petitioner to mention this matter for listing if he is aggrieved with the order passed by the high court,” the bench noted in its order.

The apex court on October 16 asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration as to why it has not filed a reply on the plea. The petitioner has said that her husband is currently lodged at Agra Central jail and has been “wrongfully deprived” of his liberty.

“The detenu (Shah), a senior and well respected citizen of India, a qualified doctor and leading NRI businessman based in Malaysia, with a serious medical illness, has been illegally deprived of his life and liberty for more than 40 days since August 5, 2019,” the plea has said.

The petitioner has said that Shah had come to Srinagar on April 18 to attend the last rites of his sister-in-law and continued to stay there since his father-in-law was unwell and passed away in July.

The plea said since Shah was not keeping well during that period, he was admitted to a hospital in Srinagar in May.

“In the intervening night of August 4-5, 2019, the detenu (Shah) was arrested illegally without any warrant from his residence at Buchwara, Dalgate, Srinagar and taken to the local police station. At the time of the arrest, the detenu was not even informed about reasons and grounds of his arrest,” it has said.

The plea has said that Shah is suffering from multiple ailments, including acute renal problem which has aggravated during the course of lodgement at Agra jail.

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