Srinagar: The Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict stating that the access to the Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution of India and asking the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review within a week the restrictive orders imposed more than five months ago has been widely welcomed across the Union Territory (UT).
However, many people were not so enthusiastic about the judgment and expressed their doubt that the government would abide by what the top court stated while hearing petitions challenging restrictions in J&K.
Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of the Kashmir Times and one of the petitioners who sought the immediate relaxation of restrictions on the Internet and telecommunication services and on the movement of journalists and media persons said, “There’s no immediate relief and that’s disappointing at the moment. However, the SC has laid down some very significant principles, which will have long-term impact. This is something very significant in the sense that the court has upheld the citizens’ rights and it also holds the state accountable. I think that’s very good.”
She, however, also said that the SC has not said that the government should revoke the Internet ban or lift Section 144 of the CrPC where it is in force. “It has asked the government to review its decision and take a call on that. Now how the government responses to this is to be seen.”
She lamented also over the fact that the apex court took five months to decide against what it has now termed the denial of fundamental rights to the people. “If it has upheld it on the ground that these are fundamental rights of the people, the decision should have come much earlier,” she said.
CPI(M) leader Moham-mad Yousuf Tarigami said that the government should be held accountable for denying fundamental rights to the citizens.
He said, “The top court has made significant comments. Its ruling goes against the claims of the Centre regarding normalcy in the state, which it has been peddling to the country and the world. The government must be made responsible before the law and the people of this country.”
He added, “The SC must further inform the people of the country how to make the government acc-ountable. Or the Govern-ment of India should apologise and rectify the wron-g it committed or they would be made accountable in the bigger court of the country — that’s the court of the people of India.”
The National Conference (NC), while welcoming the SC verdict, said that its observations about snapping of Internet services indefinitely are significant and the government must take a call to review and restore the connectivity immediately.
The party’s provincial president for Jammu, Devender Singh Rana, said that the communication clampdown has hugely impacted the people of J&K in general and those engaged in trade, commerce, industry and academics in particular. “The curbs have virtually pushed the peace-loving people of this part of the country to stone age era with their normal activities coming to halt. I hope the restoration of mobile Internet will go a long way in easing out the situation,” he said.
He also sought the immediate release of all the mainstream political leaders, saying this will pave the way for initiation of genuine democratic activities. He said, “The detention of three formers chief ministers and scores of senior leaders has created a political vacuum which is needed to be filled in the true spirit of India’s rich democratic ethos.” He further stressed the need for reaching out to the alienated people of J&K in order to assuage their aspirations.
J&K PCC chief Ghulam Ahmad said that the SC judgment vindicates the Congress party’s stand on communication lockdown. “Congress party stands vindicated and shall continue to fight for the people’s rights which are being violated under the ruling dispensation at the Centre,” he said. He added. “The communication lockdown was a serious matter, detrimental to the civil liberties and interests of the people. The people of J&K suffered immensely. The huge losses suffered by its economy must be compensated”.
Earlier Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that the SC has given a big jolt to the Modi government’s “illegal activities” by ruling that access to the internet is a fundamental right and that dissent cannot be oppressed by the imposition of prohibitory orders. “SC delivers first big jolt of 2020 to illegal activities of Modi Govt by stating the importance of internet as a fundamental right. Double shock for Modi-Shah that dissent cannot be oppressed by imposing section 144. Modiji reminded that nation bows before Constitution and not him!” he wrote on Twitter.