Writ petition (civil) No. 1031/2019
Article 19(1)(a), Article 19(1)(g), section 144 of CrPC
Jammu and Kashmir is an Indian territory, which borders Pakistan that has been a subject of dispute between both the countries. Under the Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the state of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed a special kind of status as it has its own constitution and people from other states were not allowed purchase any property there. On August 5, 2019, the Government of India issued Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019, which took all the special status from the state of J & K and stated that the state will follow all the provisions of the Constitution of India.
Stopping the breach of peace and tranquility, the District Magistrates issued the orders of suspending the Internet connections and freedom of movement. On August 4 2019, all the mobile networks and the Internet services were shut down in the region to maintain peace in the state. These movement restrictions limited the ability of journalists to travel and publish and hence they challenged in court for their violation of Article 19 of Indian Constitution. Anuradha Bhasin, who is the editor and publisher of the newspaper Kashmir Times, could not publish the newspaper due to these restrictions. Writ petitions were filed under Article 32 for the removal of the restrictions on Internet access and network connectivity.
The Supreme Court stated that its objective is to maintain a balance between the liberty and security affairs so that the Right to Life is secured and enjoyed in the best way possible. The court mentioned that online expression has become one of the major means of information circulation and it was essential to the enjoyment of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a). It was also mentioned that the Internet plays an important role in trade and commerce. Therefore, the stoppage of the Internet also affected freedom of Trade and commerce as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g).
The court rejected the petitioner’s argument that the restrictions of movement and communication violated the freedom of press and journalists ability to perform the professional duties. The Court found that the Petitioners failed to produce any kind of evidence that the restrictions limited the publishing of newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir or to challenge the State’s argument that newspapers were published and distributed during the communication and movement lockdown.
Right to the Internet forms part of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and freedom to practice any profession, carry a business, trade or occupation under Article 19(1)(g). Since the right to the Internet is part of Article 19, it is not absolute. However, it may be denied on the grounds mentioned under Article 19(2)&(6). Since no review mechanism is provided in the Suspension Rules, 2017, Competent Authority will review the matter within 7 days. Production of Orders passed under Section 144, CrPC is material in light of right to information as interpreted by the Supreme Court and also because judicial review will be possible then only.
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission