NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Anuradha Bhasin, Editor of Kashmir Times, to hand over a memo to the apex court registrar for urgent listing of her plea seeking the removal of restrictions on the media in Jammu and Kashmir after scrapping of the provisions of Article 370.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra told advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Bhasin, “you hand over the memo to the registrar and he will look into it”.
Grover told the bench that Bhasin is an editor of a leading daily in Kashmir and there has been a complete lockdown in the Valley due to which journalists are unable to work.
To this, the bench said, “We will see”.
In the petition, filed on 10 August, the editor said she is seeking a direction for the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to immediately relax all restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir and some districts of Jammu.
The direction was sought in order to enable media personnel to practise their profession and exercise their right to report in furtherance of their rights under Article 14, 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (g) and 21 of the Constitution as well as the right to know of the residents of the Kashmir Valley, the petition said.
In the petition, the editor said that since August 4, all connectivity was shutdown leaving Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut-off from all possible modes of communication and information.
“No formal orders, under which such action was taken, were communicated by the Centre and state administrators, and power and authority under which such excessive and arbitrary action was ordered is still unknown to the petitioner,” the plea said.
“The communication blockade and strict restrictions on movement of journalists resulted in a virtual blackout and media reporting and publishing was grievously impacted,” it said.
It said on August 5, orders under section 144 of the CrPC were issued and all of Kashmir was placed under a de facto curfew and severe restrictions imposed on movement.
Press identity cards of reporters were not given any attention and they were effectively disabled from reporting on the situation by restricting their movement, the petition said, adding that due to severe and pervasive restrictions imposed by authorities her newspaper Kashmir Times, Srinagar edition could not be distributed and circulated on August 5.
The editor submitted that since August 6 the newspaper’s Kashmir edition has not been printed and published as complete and absolute restrictions on communication services and movement has resulted in the imposition of a de facto blockade on media activities, including reporting and publishing on the situation in the valley.
“In view of the absolute and debilitating curtailment of the right to report of the press and media and the violation of petitioner’s right to practice her profession, the petitioner is constrained to approach this court under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking immediate and appropriate relief for safeguarding the rights available under Article 14, 19 (1) (a), and 19 (1) (g) and 21 of the constitution filed thorough advocate Vrinda Grover,” it said.
In the petition, the journalist has sought a direction for the Centre and the state administration to take all necessary steps for ensuring free and safe movement of reporters, journalists and other media personnel.
Further, the petitioner has sought framing of guidelines to ensure that the right and means of media personnel to report and publish news is not unreasonably curtailed through the issuance of orders by the authorities or any other authority suspending telecom or internet services.
The journalist has also sought a direction for setting aside or quashing any and all orders, notifications, directions or circulars, whatever the case maybe, issued by authorities, under which all modes of communication, including Internet, mobile and fixed landline telecommunication services, have been shutdown, suspended or in anyway made inaccessible or unavailable in any locality/area/district or division or region of the state for being ultra vires of the Constitution.