The Supreme Court has ordered the Jammu and Kashmir administration to restore internet services. The highest court announced that Freedom of Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of free speech. As part of the verdict, the court has ordered the internet to be restored in all institutions providing essential services. This includes hospitals and educational centers. It has also asked the J&K administration to review all restrictive orders within a week.
“Section 144 can’t suppress expression and indefinite internet curbs can’t be permitted,” Justice Ramana said delivering his verdict at SC. In its verdict, SC has suggested that suspending the internet should be reviewed forthwith. “Internet suspension can only be for a limited time period,” the verdict said. Internet suspension is also subject to judicial review. “Power under Sec 144 cannot be used as a curb on legitimate expression of democratic rights,” Supreme Court said.
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“I’m very grateful to the Supreme Court that it has upheld the right to the internet as a fundamental right,’ Petitioner Tehseen Poonawalla said after the verdict. The Supreme Court has also ordered the J&K admin to review and publish all restrictions within a week. The verdict comes after five long months of internet shutdown in the Kashmir valley. There are reports claiming that the lockdown in Kashmir has resulted in loss of more than $2.6 billion for the economy.
The Supreme Court delivered its verdict in response to a batch of pleas, including that from Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. The pleas asked the SC to review the restrictions imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of provisions under Article 370 on August 5, 2019. The court also added that “mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision cannot be reason for internet suspension.”