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Strike balance between national security, rights: Supreme Court on J&K | India News


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said a balance has to be maintained between people’s right to liberty and freedom of speech in Jammu and Kashmir and national security while putting restrictions in the aftermath of scrapping of special status of the erstwhile state.
“We have to strike a balance,” a bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai said after hearing arguments of J&K administration and the petitioners opposing restrictions.
The bench said a balance has to be maintained between Article 19(1) (a) which grants freedom of speech to citizens and Article 19(2) allowing government to impose reasonable restrictions on the right.
Concluding his arguments justifying the restrictions, solicitor general Tushar Mehta brought to the court’s notice various provocative statements made by leaders of mainstream political parties, including former chief ministers ahead of the Centre’s decision to scrap Article 370 granting special status to the erstwhile state. He said politicians and separatists would have tried to incite people to resort to violence if the government had not taken preventive measures to cut off mobile, landline and internet connections.
“Leaders of major national parties were making all kinds of provocative statements saying local terrorists are sons of the soil and they are assets. They had also also said the government must not play with fire by tinkering with Article 35A and 370 and warned that the country will see what it had not seen since 1947. No government authority can ignore ground reality and such statements could not be ignored which could cause law and order problems,” Mehta said.
He said there was no en masse blockage of internet and 280 kiosks were opened for common people to get access to internet. He said the government had also set up media centres to facilitate journalists to carry on their duty.
Countering the contentions of Mehta, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said the government has projected one-sided picture and it is the fundamental duty of the state to allow citizens to have access to schools, hospitals and other facilities and there could not be a complete shutdown. Referring to government data of hospitals and schools, he said normalcy cannot be gauged on the ground that more than 99 percent of children are appearing for the exams and thousands of people are getting treatment in hospitals.
Sibal said children are appearing in exams because they will lose academic year and it does not mean that all schools are running and the government has not given a comparative data how many people were treated in hospitals before and after August 5. He said ban on social media could be justified but not internet connection. “If most of the people in J&K are peace loving which has been rightly accepted by the government then why they were not allowed to go to schools, hospitals etc. The court has to lay down law to protect the rights of people in such situations and the government cannot invoke national security to deny their rights,” Sibal said.

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