–Indian Supreme Court bench says restoration of normalcy should be in line with ‘national security’
–India’s chief justice to visit occupied Kashmir to see citizens’ freedom of movement
NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Monday said that the federal government should restore normal life in Kashmir as soon as possible, as a partial shutdown of the disputed region entered its 42nd day.
India stripped its portion of Muslim-majority Kashmir of autonomy and statehood on August 5, shutting off phone networks and imposing curfew-like restrictions in some areas to dampen discontent.
Some of those curbs have been relaxed, but mobile communications in the Kashmir valley are largely still blocked, and more than a thousand people are likely to still be detained, according to official data.
“We direct Jammu and Kashmir to make the very best endeavor to make sure normal life returns,” India’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said on Monday, after a panel of three judges heard several petitions relating to Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan.
The court had previously said authorities there needed more time to restore order in Kashmir.
According to India Today, a bench of the court refused to pass any order on the restoration of the disputed region but said that the restoration would be done on a “selective basis, keeping in mind national interests”.
“We are not passing any orders. We are saying restore keeping in mind national security. We have said all facilities should be restored keeping in mind national security. We are not carving out exceptions for any category,” Chief Justice Gogoi said.
One of the Supreme Court judges, Sharad Arvind Bobde, said that the situation in Kashmir, where thousands have died since an armed rebellion against Indian rule began three decades ago, as “a terrible state of affairs”.
A written submission by the government said restrictions were still required in order to maintain law and order, and that they had prevented widespread casualties seen in previous periods of unrest.
“Not a single life has been lost since the abrogation of Article 370,” said India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the government, referring to the action of India’s constitution granting autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir state.
Separately on Monday, local media reported Farooq Abdullah, a three-time former chief minister of the state, was detained in state capital Srinagar under the Public Safety Act, a special law that allows for detention of up to two years without trial, and has been criticised by rights groups as draconian.
A current member of India’s parliament, 81-year-old Abdullah was previously under informal house arrest.
Abdullah and Indian police officials in Kashmir did not respond or were not reachable for comment.
INDIAN CHIEF JUSTICE TO VISIT SRINAGAR:
India’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Monday said that he would himself visit occupied Kashmir’s biggest city Srinagar to see if people were unable to access the region’s high court.
He made the remarks during the hearing of a petition filed by child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Professor Shanta Sinha, whose lawyers said that people in the region could not access the Jammu and Kashmir High Court due to a government-imposed lockdown that has been in place for over a month.
While hearing Ganguly and Professor Sinha’s appeal, Chief Justice Gogoi said, “If you make a statement that it is difficult to approach the HC [high court], it is a very serious statement. Is anyone coming in the way of you going to the high court? Please tell why?”
According to the lawyer, the shutdown in the region was preventing people from approaching the court, India Today reported.
Seeking a report from the region’s high court chief justice, the top judge said, “It is very, very serious if people are unable to approach the high court; I will myself visit Srinagar.”
Additionally, he warned a lawyer for one of the petitioners that if the report was contrary to what they were saying then they should “be ready for the consequences”.
India’s top court also allowed Ghulam Nabi Azad, a senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, to visit occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
While granting him permission, the Supreme Court asked Azad to interact with people in the region and to file a ground report on the situation. It also told Azad not to take part in any political rally, the report added.
Azad was among a delegation of India’s top opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who were sent back after they landed in Srinagar on August 24.