Ruling that the right to access the internet is constitutionally protected and the internet can be shut down only in exceptional circumstances, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered that internet access be restored in Kashmir for all essential services.
The bench also ordered the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review all restrictive orders within a week and put in public domain all orders that can then be challenged in a court of law.
The Supreme Court was hearing a batch of pleas, including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging the restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.
A bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai had reserved the judgement on November 27 last year.
Observing that the court can’t dwell into political decisions taken, SC said: “We have to balance liberty and security concerns so that right to life can be secured in best possible manner.”
SC added: “The pendulum can’t swing in any extreme direction. We are here only here to ensure citizens get liberty and get security.
“Right to access Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a). This is subject to restrictions of reasonableness. Internet can be shut only in exceptional circumstances.”
On November 21, the Centre had justified restrictions after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and said that due to the preventive steps taken, neither a single life was lost nor a single bullet fired.
Besides Azad, the apex court had heard the petitions filed by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, and a few intervenors questioning the restrictions.
The Centre had referred to terror violence in the Kashmir Valley and said that for the past so many years terrorists were being pushed through from across the border, local militants and separatist organisation had held the civilians captive in the region and it would have been “foolish” if the government would not have taken preventive steps to secure the lives of citizens.
The provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the erstwhile state, were abrogated in August last year. The state was then divided into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.