The Supreme Court criticised the indefinite ban on internet services, holding that the use of internet was a Constitutional right and part of the freedom of speech and expression.
Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — Opposition parties on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court order to review the curbs on communication in Jammu and Kashmir and said this was a “big jolt” to the Modi government which “misled” the country on Kashmir matters. They demanded that the government remove all restrictions, fully restore internet services, lift Section 144 and ensure the democratic rights for the people of Kashmir.
Reacting to the court’s order on internet ban in Kashmir in effect there since August 5 last after the Modi government arbitrarily scrapped Article 370, Congress Communication Department in-charge, Randeep Singh Surjewala, tweeted: “SC delivers the first big jolt of 2020 to the illegal activities of the Modi Govt by stressing the importance of internet as a fundamental right. Double-shock for Modi-Shah that dissent cannot be oppressed by imposing Section 144. Modiji reminded that nation bows before Constitution and not him!”
SC delivers first big jolt of 2020 to illegal activities of Modi Govt by stating importance of internet as a fundamental right.
Double shock for Modi-Shah that dissent cannot be oppressed by imposing section 144.
Modiji reminded that nation bows before Constitution and not him! pic.twitter.com/guiuctcOva
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) January 10, 2020
He said Modi and Shah now have a week to review Internet restrictions and place the reasons thereof before the public. In another tweet, Surjewala said Kashmir could no more be a ‘sealed envelope’ to hide the truth in.
After taking more than five months, the top court on Friday observed that access to Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution and asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review within a week all orders imposing curbs on the Union Territory.
In its reaction, the Communist party of India (Marxist) said the court has made significant comments on the curbs on civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir which exposed the false claims of normalcy that the central government has been peddling to the people here and around the world.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Modi government tried to reinforce the official claims by taking a group of foreign envoys on a farcical and restricted tour of J&K. He told Caravan Daily that the foreign envoys were allowed there to see and hear only what the Modi Government wanted them to, “which is why none of them could meet the three former chief ministers still in jail.”
Yechury said the foreign diplomats’ tour was an insult to India’s Parliament. Even after five months, political leaders, MPs and parties representing the people of this country were virtually barred from visiting Kashmir, he said.
The Supreme Court criticised the indefinite ban on internet services, holding that the use of internet was a Constitutional right and part of the freedom of speech and expression. It has also held that the repeated use of Sec 144 could not be used as a tool to oppress difference of opinion. While ordering a review of all such orders within a week, it said the government must put such orders in the public domain so that the citizens affected have the right to challenge them.
Yechury said the CPI(M) demands that the government removed all such restrictions, fully restored internet services, lifted Sec 144 and ensured the democratic rights of the people of Kashmir to freedom of speech and expression.
Former Jammu and Kashmir MLA and Panthers Party leader Prof. Bhim Singh welcomed the judgment, also saying that the court took more than five months to deliver this order. “A mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be a justification for internet suspension.”
He warned the state government that it will face contempt proceedings in the Supreme Court if all those detained under J&K Public Safety Act including the former chief ministers and other ex-ministers, MPs and legislators are not released forthwith. “All these leaders were held under the state’s illegal detention laws like the Public Safety Act,” he said and demanded compensation to all those who were detained under PSA.
He said that the present situation was exactly the same when the administration had used illegal laws to deprive the Indian citizens of their civil liberties and freedom of movement and speech since August 5 last.