The Jammu and Kashmir government has refuted allegations made by Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin regarding restrictions on communications and movement in Jammu and Kashmir, and child rights activist Enakshi Ganguly relating to alleged detention of children in the state, through their petitions filed in Supreme Court, which took up the matter on Thursday.
Appearing for the government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asserted that 99% of restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir have been withdrawn. The government’s affidavit read:
"...barring 8-10 Police Stations, movement restrictions have been completely removed…over 99% of the area of Jammu and Kashmir has no restrictions on any movement....telephone landlines have been fully restored and mobile phone facilities have been restored in Jammu and Ladakh and in Kupwara district…all post-paid mobile phones are functional from 14.10.2019, covering all 10 districts of Kashmir province."
The government also contended that contrary to the submissions made by Bhasin, all newspapers are being published from Srinagar as well. In this regard, the affidavit states: “...all newspapers are being published in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Even the Petitioner’s newspaper is published in Jammu and she has chosen not to publish her newspaper from Srinagar."
The affidavit filed by the government further states that even when restrictions were imposed ‘in the interest of national security and public safety’, the government had ‘ensured that supply of food, medicines and other necessities were never interrupted nor was access to hospitals or other medical facilities’.
The government also responded to a rejoinder affidavit filed by Bhasin alleging that the Government of India has suppressed relevant orders, documents and circulars concerning the internet and communications shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir, saying orders on shut down cannot be shared with petitioners.
The same could, however, be shared with the court, the government said. All the same, the government asserted, the Court cannot sit in review over its validity.
The government also cited a report of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court stating that it has been functioning on a regular basis, to rebut submissions made in the SC that litigants were finding it difficult to access the High Court, in the context of the petition filed by Ganguly.
‘It is, however, submitted that the High Court of J&K has been regularly functioning and the ... assertion [that litigants were finding it difficult to access the High Court] was false,’ the government submitted.
The government has also objected to the petitioner "sitting in appeal" over the report prepared by the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir on the court's orders.
Earlier this month, the committee had told the Supreme Court that as many as 144 minors have been detained by the authorities in the State of Jammu and Kashmir since August 5 this year. This list of 144 names also includes children as young as 9, 11, and 13 years of age. The government’s reply stated: ‘The petitioner who invoked the jurisdiction of this Court based upon a false assertion are now trying to sit in appeal over the report prepared by the said Committee of the High Court consisting of four Judges.’
Motives of the petitioners questionable
Both affidavits were filed by Yasha Mudgal, Resident Commissioner of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir through advocate Shashi Juneja. In both affidavits, the government has questioned the motives of the petitioners in approaching the Court with their respective contentions. In this regard, the affidavit filed in response to Bhasin's plea states,
‘The petitioners have, for the reasons undisclosed, presented a very grim picture of the situation which is not even near to the truth. The Petitioners cannot be permitted to undertake a roving and fishing enquiry by calling for orders under which steps are taken by the statutory authorities in good faith, bonafide and keeping the safety and security of the citizens and the nation in mind.’
Similar objection were made in the reply filed to Ganguly's petition, stating that the ‘false assertions have serious potential to create a serious prejudice against the judicial system in the State within and outside the country’.
The hearing in the petitions being taken up by a three-judge Bench comprising of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and BR Gavai will continue on November 5.