SC finds J&K too sensitive to lift curbs

Three-Judge Bench says government should be given time to restore normalcy

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13

The Supreme Court has refused to pass any orders on a PIL filed by activist Tehseen Poonawalla seeking lifting of prohibitory orders in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of abrogation of Article 370, saying the situation in the state was very sensitive.

“The situation is such that nobody knows what exactly is happening there. Some time should be given (to the government) for bringing back normalcy,” a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra said, adjourning the matter for two weeks. “The government’s endeavour is to restore normalcy. That’s why they are reviewing the situation on a day-to-day basis. If tomorrow anything happens in Jammu and Kashmir, who will be responsible? Obviously, the Centre,” the Bench, which also included Justice MR Shah and Justice Ajay Rastogi, noted. It said the pros and cons had to be looked into before passing any orders.

“We are with you on the issue of right to liberty of the people. But we should have a real picture before us. Wait for some time. Let us wait for normalcy to return,” the Bench told senior counsel Menaka Guruswamy, who represented Poonawalla.

Guruswamy said the government could restrict freedoms, but could’nt impose a ban.  She said due to shutting down of communication networks, people were unable to reach out to their loved ones on Eid and Raksha Bandhan. She said communication could at least be restored for hospitals, schools and police stations.

Her arguments were countered by Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who said the ground situation needed to improve before prohibitory orders were lifted and communication networks restored. He said the government was reviewing the situation on a day-to-day basis and relaxations were being given based on reports from district magistrates. “We have to ensure that law and order in J&K is maintained.” 

The A-G said 44,000 people had been killed in terrorist violence since 1990. Referring to the July 2016 agitation in the Valley following the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, he said it had taken three months to restore normalcy. In the present situation, it would take a few more days. Noting then 47 people had died, Venugopal sought to emphasise that not a single death had been reported since the restrictions were imposed.

Guruswamy clarified that she was not making any comment on Article 370 and only wanted to highlight the issue of fundamental rights of citizens. “If the government’s intention is to make Kashmiris full citizens, they can’t restrict them totally,” she argued. She requested the Bench to ask the A-G to place a report on the ground situation in J&K in a sealed envelope, but the Bench did not pass any such order. However, it said communications had to be restored as soon as the situation improved. The Bench asked her to give specific instances of rights violation. “Your petition is very poorly drafted,” it commented, prompting Guruswamy to request the Bench to allow her to amend the petition. 

The govt’s endeavour is to restore normalcy. That’s why they are reviewing the situation on a day-to-day basis. If tomorrow anything happens in J&K, who will be responsible? Obviously, the Centre. — SC Bench

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