Supreme Court said on Friday the indefinite shutdown of the Internet in Kashmir was unwarranted, rebuking the government for the communications lockdown imposed after it withdrew the region's autonomy in August, aiming to control unrest. An indefinite suspension of the Internet is a violation of the country's telecoms rules, the court said, ordering authorities to review all curbs in Kashmir in a week's time.
The Supreme Court also directed the administration of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to publish all its restrictive orders publicly for them to be raised before a court of law. The court orders come as blow to the Centre that has been garnering support for its move in the valley.
"Freedom of Internet access is a fundamental right," Supreme Court justice N. V. Ramana said, delivering the ruling. The bench headed by Ramana added, "The court will not go into the political propriety (in connection with the restrictions in J&K)."
In the conclusion of its judgement, the Supreme Court bench noted: "We declare that the freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g). The restriction upon such fundamental rights should be in consonance with the mandate under Article 19 (2) and (6) of the Constitution, inclusive of the test of proportionality. c. An order suspending internet services indefinitely is impermissible under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017."
The court observed its limited concern is to find a balance between liberty of citizens and their security, as in this case liberty and security are at loggerheads.
The Supreme Court in its verdict observed that the use of Internet enjoys constitutional protection as tool, which is under the ambit of freedom of speech and expression and also enables people to carry on with their respective profession.
On Section 144 of the CrPC, the apex court said it cannot be used to curb liberty, and this section can be used only where there is likelihood of incitement of violence and danger to public safety.