SC questions government for not producing orders on J-K lockdown
A special bench led by justice NV Ramana and comprising justices Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai wondered if the effort was deliberate.“Is it done purposefully,” justice Ramana asked.Updated: Oct 17, 2019 01:51 IST
The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the Centre’s failure to produce in court executive orders on the lockdown, restrictions on public movement and communication blockade enforced in Jammu and Kashmir since it effectively revoked the special status conferred on the state on August 5.
A special bench led by justice NV Ramana and comprising justices Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai wondered if the effort was deliberate.“Is it done purposefully,” justice Ramana asked. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta rebutted the suggestion.
Mehta told the court that the Centre had filed an affidavit on October 1 in response to several petitions, including by Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Advocate Vrindra Grover, Bhasin’s lawyer, pointed out that the government’s rejoinder had not touched on the orders imposing restrictions. Bhasin, she said, had in her counter-affidavit, filed on October 14, made this point on the Centre’s reluctance to produce the orders.
The court then turned to Mehta for an explanation. The solicitor general argued that the petitioners had expanded the scope of their plea. The original plea had only been for ending curbs on communication and movement in the Kashmir Valley. The situation is changing gradually, he said.
Grover sought to object to Mehta’s submission, reading out Bhasin’s petition, and said production of the orders was the first thing she sought in her petition challenging the communication blackout. This was done for the court to examine the validity of such orders.
The court agreed with Grover’s submission and told her that it was upto the government to place the documents in court and that it would not force anyone to file something.
At this, Mehta said the government will place the orders before the court, but nobody should be allowed to seek to appeal against the executive orders concerning national security, especially not the petitioners.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave interjected to tell Mehta that the top court bench was not sitting in appeal on administrative orders. “But we can tell the court that the material you have placed is inadequate,” he said.
Directing the government to produce the orders relating to the restrictions imposed in Kashmir, the court said the Centre would have to divulge reasons for not placing any order on record. The reasons should be filed in the form of an affidavit, it said, fixing October 25 to hear the matter.
The bench led by Justice NV RAmana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Wednesday that he must explore the possibility of waiving cell phone charges for the residents of the Kashmir Valley where mobile connections were snapped for longer than two months.
Mehta was asked to speak with the Department of Telecommunications secretary after senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for one of the petitioners, questioning the lockdown in the Kashmir region and complained of residents receiving bills even for the period when their connections had been switched off