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Should they have waited for riots to take place? SC responds to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Kashmir restrictions

Ghulam Nabi Azad had petitioned in September that his three attempts to enter the valley on August 8, 20 and 24 were thwarted. He had stated that the preventive lockdown in the valley is denying rights to the people in Kashmir.

The Supreme Court in its response to arguments presented by Congress leader Kapil Sibal against the preventive lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday has observed that some people are bound to suffer when restrictions are placed to maintain peace.

Kapil Sibal is representing his party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad, who in September had moved a petition in the apex court against the communication and movementg lockdown imposed in Kashmir over the removal of Article 370. Azad had questionined the restrictions ordered by the government in the valley and insisted that these were subject to judicial review.

“Should they have waited for the riots to take place? In an issue like this, why cannot apprehension be there that the entire area or the place may be disturbed?” a three-judge bench headed by Justice N V Ramana asked Kapil Sibal who argued that it was a “colourable exercise of power” on the part of the authorities to impose restrictions in the valley.

As a preventive measure, the government had imposed various restrictions on communication and transportation modes on Kashmir after the effective abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcating the state of Jammu and Kashmir in into two union territories: Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh which have been gradually lifted over time.

After initially refusing to interfere on the restrictions imposed in J&K, the apex court had eventually agreed to consider the petitions filed by several people about the Modi government’s handling of the abrogation of Article 370. The 3-member Bench agreed to consider the cases of Enakshi Ganguly (child detention), Sitaram Yechury (Tarigami detention), Anuradha Bhasin (against communication blockade), Ghulam Nabi Azad (against JK restrictions), Asifa Mubeen and We The Citizens (against lockdown) etc.

Sibal argued that without material evidence to support their apprehensions it was not just on the governments part to impose such restriction and bring the lives of around seven million people to a standstill. “In the 10 districts of the valley, was it necessary to paralyse seven million people like this? They have to show the materials,” Sibal said, adding, “Here, we are not talking about rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir. We are talking about the rights of people of India.”

Justice R Subhash Reddy, one of the three-judge bench, however, told the Congress’ leader: “There cannot be any doubt that in a situation like this, there will be difficulties for many… There are situations when people living in areas under curfew suffer. These problems will be there. Some people will suffer.”

Continuing his argument against governments decision to impose of section 144 in the valley, when Sibal asked as to why it was assumed that the entire population will be against this and on what basis?”, the bench replied to Sibal, “If that is so, then there cannot be any section 144 at any place”. The apex court also said in case of the curfew imposed in an area, in some circumstances some people might suffer.

Sibal had submitted in his petition before the court that Ghulam Nabi Azad had tried to visit Kashmir three times, on August 8, 20 and 24. Following the SC’s instructions, Azad had visited four districts in the valley on September 16.

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