SC dismisses plea seeking Enforcement of Guidelines on Internet shutdowns

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an application seeking enforcement of the 2020 guidelines issued by it on state-imposed internet shutdowns.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai, Dipankar Datta and Aravind Kumar said the petitioner had other remedies available for enforcement of the guidelines.

On January 10, 2020, the top court had said the freedom of speech and conducting business on the Internet are protected under the Constitution, as it directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to immediately review the curb orders.

It had said administrative power under Section 144 of CRPC, which prohibits assembly of four or more people, cannot be used to suppress legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights.

During the hearing on Thursday, the bench told the petitioner’s counsel curtly: “We condemn reopening of disposed of matter by way of miscellaneous applications. Thank You. Dismissed.”

Justice Gavai said the court had made a mistake by issuing notice on the plea.

The petitioner’s counsel said directions issued by the top court in its January 10, 2020 verdict were not followed by the authorities.

The top court had on May 11 issued notice on the miscellaneous application and sought the Centre’s response.

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In its January 2020 verdict, the apex court had directed the authorities in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to immediately review all orders suspending Internet services and said orders that are not in accordance with law must be revoked.

It had said Internet services cannot be suspended “indefinitely”, and directed the J-K authorities to consider allowing forthwith government websites, localised/ limited e -banking as also hospitals and other essential services in areas where the services are not likely to be restored immediately.

“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),” it had said.

The top court’s judgement had come on the pleas filed by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad which challenged the curbs imposed on Internet in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019.

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