Supreme Court Admits IJU Intervention Petition02 Oct, 2019
The Supreme Court today admitted Indian Journalists Union intervention application in Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, writ petition challenging the communication shutdown in Kashmir for violating the freedom of the press guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. In its IA, the IJU, the largest and most representative organisation of working journalists in the country, has contended that the ‘lockdown’ in J&K extinguished constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of expression and speech of journalists.
Further, the IJU’s IA states the issues involved affect all types of media organisations, such as traditional newspapers and magazines, digital news portals, television channels etc and its outcome will also have wide ranging ramifications on the public’s right to receive accurate and contemporaneous information about the situation prevailing in Kashmir and any other part of the country where similar restrictions are imposed in the future.
In today’s hearing, a 3-judge bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai also admitted the IA of Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP). The Internet Freedom Foundation has assisted both IJU and FMP with drafting, strategy and counsel coordination. IJU was represented by its Secretary General, Sabina Inderjit and its legal team comprising Advocate on Record, Shadan Farasat and Advocates Jahnavi Sindhu and Shruti Narayan.
Both the journalists’ organisations’ applications emphasised on the watchdog function performed by the free press and highlighted the debilitating impact of the communication shutdown on journalists. The IAs also raised concerns about the legal basis of the communication shutdown being unknown because as on the date of filing, there were no orders authorising the shutdown available in the public domain.
After 57 days of the communication shutdown, the State of J&K filed its affidavit in court stating that telecom services were suspended pursuant to orders passed under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 by the IG of Police which were subsequently confirmed by Principal Secretary, Home Department. The communication shutdown, the affidavit said was intended to prevent “dissemination of iniquitous and specious rumours, fake propaganda, misusing social media sites and for preventing activities that could disturb public order and tranquillity.” However, the actual orders and specifics regarding when and where they were imposed are still not available.
The next date of hearing is listed for 16 October subject to confirmation. The Petitioner and Intervenors have also been granted liberty to respond to the State of Jammu and Kashmir’s affidavit.
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