India's top court orders review of Kashmir internet banChristian Fernsby ▼ | January 10, 2020
India’s Supreme Court today ordered reviewing all restrictions including a five-month-long Internet shutdown in Indian administered Kashmir.
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The apex court described restrictions unconstitutional and held that right to the Internet is a fundamental right while interpreting Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution, that guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The judgment was delivered by a bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and BR Gavai after they concluded hearing on various petitions challenging Internet ban on Nov. 27 last year.
The bench also said that a complete curb on the Internet should be imposed only as an extraordinary measure. The judgment said the repeated orders to suspend the Internet amounted to an abuse of power.
Editor of English language daily Anuradha Bhasin had first approached the court against communication blockade and Internet shutdown. Later, Leader of Opposition in Upper House Ghulam Nabi Azad also filed a similar petition questioning the restrictions.
Trade bodies in Kashmir have estimated loss of $1.39 billion to businesses in the first 100 days as a result of Internet shutdowns. According to Top10VPN, a publication focused on Internet privacy, India figured one of top countries shutting down the Internet for 4196 hours in 2019.
While reading the verdict, Justice Ramana said that the court would not delve into the political intent of the orders imposing restrictions in Kashmir. He also said that liberty and security are always at loggerheads.
“It is the court's job to ensure that the citizens are provided all rights and security,” he said.
The government in its reply had justified the curbs as preventive measures taken to ensure that law and order were maintained after scrapping the special status of the state.
On Aug. 5 last year, the Indian government scrapped special provisions granted to Jammu and Kashmir that allowed it to enact its laws and protected the Muslim majority state's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.
To quell popular protests, curfew-like conditions were imposed in the region and pro-India leaders detained. The entire political leadership in the region is already either in Indian prisons or under house arrest. ■