The Government of India has filed "evasive pleadings and failed to produce relevant documents, circulars and orders with regard to the communications lockdown in the Kashmir Valley, alleged Anuradha Bhasin in her affidavit before the Supreme Court. Documents, circulars and orders allegedly held back by the UOI are essential for a fair and full hearing on the Kashmir Times editor's petition challenging the lockdown on media in the Valley, alleged
Bhasin in her rejoinder filed earlier this week, the Kashmir Times editor alleged;
"The proper adjudication of the present writ petition requires this Hon'ble Court directs the Respondents NO & 2 to place on record copies of all such orders which have been passed, in pursuance of which the information and shut has been enforced in Kashmir since 04.08.2019."
Filed on behalf of Ms Bhasin through senior advocate Vrinda Grover, the rejoinder further adds that the top court must examine the documents, to test the constitutionality (of the lockdown)..., given the far reaching impact and debilitating effect of the communication shutdown on fundamental rights and freedoms."
The rejoinder adds, "the right to internet and communication is a basic and essential facet to the freedom of speech and expression and the Right to know, including the right of the media to report freely."
The Centre is avoiding a determination on the validity of these orders, further contended the rejoinder.
The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ramana will consider the matter today.
On October 1, the Centre, through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, contending that the shutdown in Kashmir on the grounds of growing insurgency, national security, and the danger of "fake news" being spread to disturb public peace across India. The Government's affidavit further pointed out that there had been a three-month Internet shut down following the 2016 killing of Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani. In her rejoinder, Bhasin submits that on July 2019, the "Union of India has maintained that terrorism and militancy in the valley has declined by 28%, net infiltration has reduced by 48%.... and in light of this, there is no reason for sweeping and generalised apprehensions about disturbance of peace and order, or the dissemination of iniquitous rumours and fake propaganda".
Citing the government's own figures, Bhasin's rejoinder points out that "the government's averment about misuse of internet by anti-India elements to spread false provocative content is a criticism of the internet in general, and is not unique to the Kashmir Valley."
Calling this a "classic case of a blunt instrument being used", which the rejoinder adds, "enforcing a collective punishment on the entire population of Kashmir valley by denying them access to mobile and internet services."