J&K shutdown: 3-judge SC Bench to hear 7 pleas

A view of a closed market during the lockdown in Srinagar on Saturday. Nissar Ahmad  

A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Monday referred petitions challenging the Jammu and Kashmir lockdown and lack of access to basic facilities to another Bench of three judges.

A Bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai will hear the 7 petitions on the lockdown.

A Constitution Bench of five judges, also led by Justice Ramana, would further, on October 1, start hearing another batch of petitions seeking to quash the dilution of Article 370, which led to the withdrawal of the special rights and privileges enjoyed by the Kashmiri people for decades.

The petitions on Article 370 have challenged the Centre’s unilateral move to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir from a State to two Union Territories.

Sending the petitions challenging the ongoing lockdown to the three-judge Bench, the CJI remarked orally, “We don’t have time to hear so many matters. We have a Constitution Bench case going on... These petitions will be heard by the Kashmir Bench.”

The ‘Constitution Bench case’ here refers to the Ayodhya appeals entering the 34th consecutive day of hearing. Two judges on the Bench which was so far hearing the J&K lockdown petitions — the CJI and Justice S.A. Bobde, the second senior most judge in the apex court — are part of the Ayodhya Bench. 

The Ayodhya Bench is on a deadline to finish the court hearings by October 18. The appeals are being heard from Monday to Friday till 5 p.m.

Countering the petitions against the lockdown, the Centre has argued that the curbs, since August 5, were based on formidable reasons and had stopped thousands of instances of death, terror and violence.

Habeas corpus pleas

The prolonged lockdown has seen many habeas corpus petitions filed in the Supreme Court. These include the petition by a young lawyer, Mohammed Aleem Sayed, worried about his aged parents in Kashmir, that of Sitaram Yechury, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), to see his party colleague M.Y. Tarigami and Iltija Mufti’s to see her mother and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. 

The court, instead of making the authorities liable to prove their well-being, had allowed the petitioners permission to travel to J&K and meet them under certain conditions.

Other petitions questioning life under restrictive conditions in Jammu and Kashmir include one by child rights activists Dr. Shanta Sinha and Enakshi Ganguli to verify illegal detention of children. 

There is another filed by a doctor about the lack of medical access.

A petition which has consistently struck a chord is the one filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin about the challenging media restrictions and information black-out.

On this, the court has so far adopted a wait-and-watch approach, expecting the situation to clear up enough for restoration of communications in the Valley.

Ms. Bhasin has argued there has been a clampdown on free speech. Her petition sought a relaxation of restrictions to allow journalists “to practise their profession and exercise their right to report freely on the situation prevailing in J&K after the clampdown.”

She said the information black-out was “fuelling anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents.”

But the government claims that the allegations are wrong and the people of Kashmir lack nothing.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 3:46:45 AM |

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