Article 370: SC expresses 'anguish' over faulty petitions, says will 'wait' before passing directions on media restrictions in J&K
While commencing the proceedings, the apex court bench questioned lawyer and petitioner ML Sharma, saying his petition against the Modi Government's move has "no meaning".
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed anguish over "defective" petitions on the issue of the scrapping of provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the petition by advocate M L Sharma has "no meaning".
The CJI said he spent 30 minutes reading the petition but could not make out anything and also could not understand what was the prayer.
"What kind of petition is this? It could have been dismissed but there are 5 other pleas with the registry which are under defect," the bench also comprising Justices S A Bobde and S A Najeer said.
"You are not praying for setting aside the Presidential order. What is the prayer it is not clear. It can be dismissed on technical grounds."
"In a matter of this nature if this is the petition, there is no meaning," the bench said.
The court was hearing the petition by Sharma, who had filed it on August 6, a day after the Centre had abrogated Jammu and Kashmir's special status.
The apex court asked lawyers to cure defects in their six petitions on Article 370 and adjourned the hearing.
The bench also noted that it was hearing the petition on Article 370 by breaking the combination of judges which was hearing the sensitive Ayodhya matter.
During the hearing, advocate Shakil Sabeer said he was the resident of J-K and had filed the petition against the scrapping of Article 370 which has led to the creation of union territories of J-K and Ladakh.
He said he had cured the defects but the petition was not listed.
The bench enquired from its apex court registry and found that the defects were cured on Wednesday evening.
The bench said the defects were cured on Wednesday evening and Thursday was a holiday.
Then how did he expected the listing of his petition today? "Why did you file a defective petition in the matter of this importance," an anguished bench asked the lawyer.
"You file a defective petition and trouble my officers," the CJI said.
The bench asked the lawyer if he knows how many petitions on J-K issue are in the apex court and are under defects? The bench told him that six petitions have been filed on the issue.
"In the matter of this seriousness people are filing defective petitions," the bench said.
The National Conference, the main political party of Jammu and Kashmir, has also filed a petition posing legal challenges in the apex court to the changes made in the constitutional status of J-K, contending that these have taken away rights of its citizens without their mandate.
Arguing that the legislation approved by Parliament and orders issued by the President subsequently were "unconstitutional", the petition prayed for these to be declared as "void and inoperative".
The petition has been filed by Mohammad AKbar Lone and Justice (rtd) Hasnain Masoodi, both Lok Sabha members belonging to the NC.
Lone is a former speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Masoodi a retired judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, who ruled in 2015 that Article 370 was a permanent feature of the Constitution.
Some other individuals have also filed a petition in the Supreme Court but they were not listed for hearing on Friday.
During the hearing, the Centre told the apex court that the situation is improving in Jammu and Kashmir and the curbs are being lifted gradually.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S A Bobde and S A Najeer said, "We would like to give little time.
We have read in newspaper today that landline and broadband connections are being restored gradually.
Therefore, we will take up the petition with other connected matters," the bench said.
"The landlines are working. We also got a call today from the CJ of J-K HC," the bench further said.
"We will see when the matter can be listed for hearing. We will fix a date on the administrative side," the bench said.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor, Kashmir Times, said there was a need for early restoration of communication mode for journalists to carry out their work.
"My matter is related to freedom press," Grover said and added it had nothing to do with Article 370.
At this point, the bench said it can also refer this matter to the bench which on Tuesday had entertained a similar petition.
Another bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, on Tuesday, had refused to interfere with the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government imposing several restrictions, saying "reasonable time" be given for bringing normalcy in the sensitive situation and had decided to hear the issue after two weeks.
During Friday's hearing, Grover submitted that there had been a lot of curtailment on the movement of media personnel and there has been a blackout on the publication of newspapers because of the communication shut down.
The advocate said there have been some reporting only from Srinagar and the role of the press as the fourth state has to be maintained.
Attorney General K K Venugopal said he had read Kashmir Times, which had been published from Jammu, and permission has been granted to all media to function from all other places.
He expressed surprise why Kashmir Times was not published from Srinagar.
"So far the situation is concerned it would gradually be settled and, therefore, there is no need to jump to any conclusion," Venugopal said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that there was no need to entertain the petition seeking lifting of curbs on media.
He said people should trust the security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and authorities are taking stock of the situation on a day-to-day basis.
He said some time should be given to bring normalcy in the region.
The petition filed by Bhasin had sought the removal of restrictions imposed on working of journalists in the state after scrapping of provisions of Article 370.
Bhasin has sought restoration of all modes of communication, including mobile Internet and landline services, throughout the state in order to provide an enabling environment for the media to practise its profession.
In the petition, 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 residents of Kashmir Valley, the petition said.
In the petition, the editor submitted 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 submitted.
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 submitted, adding 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.