The News – Indian Supreme Court issues notice to Modi government

New Delhi – India, 29 August 2019. The Indian Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the federal government on all petitions challenging the revocation of Article 370 in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK).

The Indian Supreme Court held a preliminary hearing on 14 petitions, which relate to Article 370 and the subsequent lockdown in the region, Wednesday and said five judges will start a regular hearing in October.

“If notice is issued, it will have cross-border repercussions. It will be misused,” the solicitor general was quoted as saying.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogi and two other judges rejected the government’s opposition to a notice on the issue as this may be cited by Pakistan at the United Nations.

Attorney-General K K Venugopal said he and another law officer were representing the government before the court. “We know what to do, we have passed the order, we are not going to change,” the judges were quoted as saying in media reports.

While hearing a petition by Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin, which demands an end to communications restrictions in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK), the top court issued another notice to the government and asked for a detailed response within a week.

“It’s the 24th day of (the) blackout. Even a doctor speaking to the media was whisked away,” said Vrinda Grover, arguing on behalf of the petitioner. The bench ordered the government to inform the court about the media restrictions imposed in IHK.

The bench, on another petition, refused a request from the federal government to appoint an interlocutor for IHK. The court allowed Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and a Kashmiri student who wanted to meet his parents to visit IHK, and asked both to file a report when they return.

The Indian and IHK administration were asked by the Supreme Court to respond in seven days after a petition sought directions for restoration of all modes of communication so that the media can function freely in the region.

Meanwhile, at least 66 Pakistani and international rights groups have endorsed a statement condemning the internet and communications blackout in IHK.

According to a Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) press release, some 66 human rights, digital rights, women rights, and feminist groups have supported a statement condemning the communications blackout in the occupied valley.

The statement called out the Indian government for its blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, movement and peaceful gatherings under a blanket network and internet shutdown in IHK since the evening of 04 August.

It was highlighted that the right to access communication networks is an important part for exercising democratic and fundamental rights, which the people of IHK have been denied.

The statement condemned the ambiguous application of community guidelines and content regulation by social media companies such as Twitter, silencing criticism of the Indian government.

“We recognise that the current situation is not an aberration, it is rather part of a systematic effort by the BJP-led government to silence and exclude dissent from the region; the current internet and network shutdown is part of a larger pattern of regular shutdowns in the disputed region; in 2019 alone, 51 internet shutdowns have been imposed in IHK,” the statement read.

The statement was endorsed by organisations such as Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS), and the Digital Rights Foundation, as well as collectives such as Aurat March (Lahore and Karachi), the Women’s Action Forum (Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Hyderabad), Women Democratic Front, Aurat Foundation, Aurat Haq, Girls at Dhabas, and War Against Rape (WAR), Lahore.

It was also endorsed by Joint Action Committee (JAC), Freedom Network, Media Matters for Democracy, Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights, and Pakistan Press Foundation. International organisations such as Freedom Forum Nepal, NetBlocks, Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders), and Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) also endorsed the statement.