The Supreme Court refused to pass any orders on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir after hearing the petitions posing legal challenges to the Centre’s decision to scrap provisions of Article 370 which abrogated special status to Jammu and Kashmir and subsequent measures putting restrictions on the working of media in the region.
A special bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer, heard the petitions filed by advocate ML Sharma and Executive Editor, Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin. While the advocate challenged the scrapping of provisions of Article 370 which has resulted in the creation of two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the journalist sought directions for restoring of all modes of communication, including mobile Internet and landline services, throughout the state to provide an enabling environment for the media to practise its profession.
The top court asked the petitioners to give some time to the Centre to tackle the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Attorney General KK Venugopal assured the court that decision regarding lifting of the communication restrictions will be told to the Supreme Court on the next date. The Supreme Court special bench will take up the matter on the administrative side and the matter was adjourned.
The AG asked why was Kashmir Times being published from Jammu and not from Srinagar when they have been given the permission for all newspapers to be published. He said that it was not okay for the publication to jump the gun in the matter. He added that the petitioner needed to trust the security agencies and that the Centre is taking stock of the situation on a daily basis. He also informed that all channels are functioning
The Supreme Court expressed anguish over "defective" petitions challenging scrapping of provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution.
ML Sharma who had filed the petition on August 6, a day after the Centre had abrogated the Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, was reprimanded by the SC. The advocate in his plea had claimed that the Presidential order on Article 370 was illegal since it was passed without the consent of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.
But owing to defects in the plea, the Chief Justice of India pulled up petitioner. CJI Gogoi said that there were defects in the plea and it will be dismissed on technical grounds. He also said that his petition should not hamper the other petitioners.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi said the petition by advocate Sharma has "no meaning". "What kind of petition is this? It could have been dismissed but there are 5 other pleas with the registry," the bench also comprising S A Bobde and S A Najeer said. "You are not praying for setting aside the Presidential order. What is the prayer it is not clear. It can be dismissed on technical grounds," the bench said and added that there were five other petitions in the registry which are defective.
The CJI said he spent 30 minutes reading the petition on Article 370 but could not make out anything. The apex court asked lawyers to cure defects in their six petitions on Article 370 and adjourned the hearing. The Registrar informed that in a total of six petitions on the matter, only two petitions have cleared defects and four remained defective. The CJI called it a serious matter.
ML Sharma responded saying that he will amend the petition and the pleadings on Friday itself. His petition along with all connected matters will be listed after defects have been cleared.
In a separate petition filed on August 10, Bhasin said she is seeking a direction for the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to immediately relax all restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir and some districts of Jammu. The direction was sought to enable media personnel to practise their profession and exercise their right to report in furtherance of their rights under Articles 14, 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (g) and 21 of the Constitution as well as the right to know of the residents of the Kashmir Valley, the petition said. In the petition, the editor said that since August 4, all connectivity was shutdown leaving Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut-off from all possible modes of communication and information.
Earlier on Tuesday, the apex court had refused to interfere with the restrictions, including the communication clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, saying that reasonable time should be given for bringing normalcy in the sensitive situation and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
The National Conference, the main political party of Jammu and Kashmir, has also filed a petition posing legal challenges in the apex court to the changes made in the constitutional status of J&K, contending that these have taken away rights of its citizens without their mandate.Arguing that the legislation approved by Parliament and the orders issued by the President subsequently were “unconstitutional”, the petition prayed for these to be declared as “void and inoperative”. The petition has been filed by Mohammad AKbar Lone and Justice (rtd) Hasnain Masoodi, both Lok Sabha members belonging to the NC. Lone is a former speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Masoodi a retired judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, who ruled in 2015 that Article 370 was a permanent feature of the Constitution.
(With PTI inputs)