Article 370: Supreme Court reserves verdict on pleas challenging curbs in J-K

The Supreme Court reserved on Wednesday its verdict on a batch of pleas including that of Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad challenging the restriction imposed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir following abrogation of provisions of Article 370.

A bench of Justice N V Ramana, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice B R Gavai reserved the verdict.

Appearing for Azad, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said they understand that there are national security issues in Jammu and Kashmir, but the entire seven million population cannot be “locked down”.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin, termed the curbs “unconstitutional” and said the restrictions have to pass the test of proportionality.

On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration justified imposition of curbs on Internet services in the erstwhile state after abrogation of the special status given under Article 370, saying separatists, terrorists and Pakistan’s Army made attempts on social media to instigate people for ‘jihad’.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir administration, had said that it was not only fighting enemies within but also with those from across the border.

Mehta referred to public speeches and social media posts of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and leaders of National Conference party against the removal of Article 35A, which gave special rights to permanent residents of the state, and Article 370 provisions that granted special status to the state.

Referring to social media app Twitter, Mehta said that “there were thousands of messages on official twitter handles of Pakistan Army, Afghan Taliban and other terror groups meant to instigate the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There was propaganda by Pakistan Army. We would have failed in our duty, if we had not taken precautionary steps”.

He had said that “the only solution is that either you have Internet or you don’t” as it was very difficult to segregate, especially in such a huge area. There were prohibitory orders so that there are no congregations which would have created law-and-order situation, he had said.

On November 21, the Centre justified restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and said that due to the preventive steps taken, neither a single life was lost nor a single bullet fired.

The Centre had referred to terror violence in the Kashmir Valley and said that for the past so many years terrorists were being pushed through from across the border, local militants and separatist organisation had held the civilians captive in the region and it would have been “foolish” if the government would not have taken preventive steps to secure the lives of citizens.

HSRP for vehicles: SC issues notice to Centre on contempt plea

The Supreme Court has sought the Centre’s reply on an application seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the government for allegedly violating the top court’s earlier orders regarding affixation of high security registration plate (HSRP) on vehicles.

A bench comprising Justices R Banumathi and R Subhash Reddy issued notice to the Centre on the application and posted the matter for hearing on March 8.

The application, filed by Delhi-based Ajay Sharma, said that the government had issued a notification on December 4 last year regarding affixation of colour coded stickers on vehicles, which would indicate the nature of fuel being used by them.

It alleged that the apex court judgement of December 8, 2011, in which it was directed that there would be only one manufacturer of HSRPs in a state to ensure safety and monitoring, was violated by the December 2018 notification.

“This direction has been violated by the impugned notification by which it is provided that each and every manufacturer of a motor vehicle is mandated to provide number plates,” the application said.

“This would result in multiple manufacturers in every state as the manufacturing of number plate would be spread out to thousands of car dealers which would result in confusion and non-compliance of the directions,” the application said.

It further said that in February 2012, the apex court had fixed time for the states to fully implement the scheme for fixation of HSRP for new as well as old vehicles but as per the last year’s notification, “it is no longer mandatory to get HSRP affixed on existing vehicles within the prescribe period”.

“It is submitted that the notification issued in breach and violation of this court ought to be immediately suspended/ stayed and ultimately quashed,” it said.

Sharma also made it clear in his application that he has no objection to the policy of colour coding stickers on vehicles.

The apex court had last year accepted a proposal of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) which had said that hologram-based light blue colour sticker would be used in vehicles using petrol and CNG fuel, while an orange sticker would be put on diesel-run vehicles.