Right To Access Internet Constitutionally Protected, Repeated Use Of Sec 144 Abuse Of Power: SC On Kashmir

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that the indefinite shut down of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir was impermissible and the repetitive use of prohibitory orders is an abuse of power by the central government.

The communication lockdown has seen little relief since August when government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution.

A three-judge bench said internet can be shut down only in exceptional circumstances. While the government argued that the blackout was essential to prevent separatists funded by Pakistan to foment trouble, and the court said that an indefinite suspension of the internet was a violation of the country’s telecoms rules. The bench directed the authorities to review all curbs within a week.

The 150 days shutdown is the longest outage in any democracy, according to digital rights group Access Now.

“Repetitive orders under Section 144 of CrPC will amount to an abuse of power. Reasons have to be given for imposing Section 144 and magistrate should balance rights of individual with state interest when issuing such orders,” the court said, adding that all orders have to be put in public domain.

The Supreme Court was hearing pleas from Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, challenging the restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and also on restrictions imposed.

The internet blackout has affected millions of lives with simple things such as filling college forms or GST returns becoming difficult. 

“We have to balance liberty and security concerns so that right to life can be secured in best possible manner,” the top court said. “The pendulum can’t swing in any extreme direction. We are here only here to ensure citizens get liberty and get security,” it added.

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