All restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir to be reviewed in a week: Top Court
New Delhi : Access to internet is a fundamental right for the citizens of India and same goes for Jammu and Kashmir, said Supreme Court on Friday today; adding to it the top court ordered a review of restrictions imposed in J&K within a week time.
"Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power," said the Supreme Court, asserting that "mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason for Internet suspension."
The three judge bench also said that the restrictive orders in Jammu and Kashmir over the time duration of five months, since the scrapping of Article 370, must be made public so that they can be challenged legally.
"Suspending internet should be reviewed forthwith. Such suspension can only be for a limited time period and is subject to judicial review," the Supreme Court said on petitions challenging the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5.
The court said, "freedom of speech and expression through the internet is an integral part of Article 19 (1)(A) of the constitution," asking the government to consider restoring government websites and e-facilities where internet abuse is minimal. A complete ban on internet must be considered by the state only as an extraordinary measure, said the court.
The court also criticized the repeated use of Section 144 saying that no one can oppress difference of opinion by using Article 370 as a tool.
"Our limited concern is to find a balance regarding security and liberty of people. We only here to ensure citizens are provided their rights. We will not delve into the political intent behind the orders given," said Justice Ramana.
"Orders passed under Section 144 have direct consequences upon the fundamental rights of the public in general. Such a power, if used in a casual and cavalier manner, would result in severe illegality."
The Centre defended its move by saying that it is because of the restrictions that no one lost his life and no bullets were fired.
Kashmir has been through the longest internet shutdown in any democracy. Kashmir's chamber of commerce says the Internet shutdown cost the economy over 2.6 billion dollars and over 1 lakh people lost their jobs.