Bringing massive relief to the people of Kashmir after months of communication and internet lockdown, the Supreme Court today said an indefinite internet shutdown is abuse of power and ordered the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review within one week all restrictive orders in place since the government ended special status to the former state in August.
“Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power,” said the Supreme Court, asserting that “mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason for Internet suspension.”
“Suspending internet should be reviewed forthwith. Such suspension can only be for a limited time period and is subject to judicial review,” the Supreme Court said on petitions challenging the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
All restrictive orders in Jammu and Kashmir over the past five months following the scrapping of Article 370 are to be made public so they can be challenged legally, the court said. As part of the sweeping curbs in movement and communication, several political leaders including three former chief ministers have been in detention in Kashmir since August 5.
“Freedom of speech and expression includes the right to internet within Article 19,” said a three-judge bench, asking the government to consider restoring government websites and e-facilities where internet abuse is minimal. A complete ban on internet must be considered by the state only as an extraordinary measure, said the court.