SC says can't be blamed for delay in deciding J&K curbs

New Delhi, Nov 19

The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it clear that it cannot be blamed for any delay in adjudicating restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was trying its best and seeking updates on the status on aspects such as the status of public transport there.

The observations by a bench, headed by Justice N.V. Ramana, came after senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing Foundation for Media Professional, contended before it that 106 days have passed since the petitions were filed in August and that "for all these days, the people in the region have suffered."

At this, the bench posed, "Do you blame the court for the delay?"

Justice Ramana asked the senior advocate, "Do you want to criticize the court for this?"

Dave replied that it was not a complaint against the court but "we are talking about the government."

Justice Ramana responded that was not the meaning of the submissions he made before the court.

Justice Ramana said the counsel should be more careful while making submissions, as it would send out a wrong message.

The court said it understands the importance of the matter. "We have been seeking updates on the status of the public transport. We are doing our best," said the court.

The court told the counsel that it was also hearing other matters along with the Kashmir petition.

Earlier during the hearing, the top court expressed its anguish at the absence of Solicitor General and other top law officers of the Centre during the hearing. Dave said the government should explain why it has not lifted the restrictions in the region yet.

The court sought the presence of the Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta on this issue, asking, "Where is SG? Are there no Additional Solicitor Generals to appear for the government?"

The SG was making submission before a Constitution Bench hearing the matter related to land acquisition. The proceedings in both matters were ongoing on simultaneously.

After lunch, two ASGs were present in the court. At this, the court observed, "(For) last so many days there was none and now there are two ASGs."

Dave argued for a major part during the day-long hearing. "We are becoming a police state, only the court can stop this. Lives of innocent needs to be protected against terrorism, but one can't treat all people party to terrorism," Dave contended before the bench.

He also cited the debates in the Constituent Assembly. "Sardar Patel said not to interfere with religious and cultural rights and that fundamental rights of minorities should not be taken away," he said.

He insisted that in a democracy, a balance should be struck between individual liberty and social control. "The executive is more interested in social control rather than individual liberty", he added contesting the affidavit filed by the Centre.

Dave raised the issue of internet connectivity before the court. "Broadband is a basic necessity and part of right to life. The Kerala High Court said that internet is a fundamental right," he said.

Attacking the Centre's counter affidavit on the matter, Dave said, "They (government) say no single bullet was fired. "What is the kind of argument? Apply section 144 in whole country and then say no single murder has taken place," he said, referring to the government contention.

The Centre is likely to counter the arguments on Thursday.