The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday met with defiant queries raised in Supreme Court about its perceived hesitation to produce on record the actual orders imposing restrictions on public movement and liberties in the State.
“Nobody can sit in appeal over our administrative decision taken in national interest after considering the ground situation, least of all the petitioners here,” Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, for J&K government, asserted before a three-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana.
Mr. Mehta quickly added that the Supreme Court could indeed examine the government’s calls.
The restrictions were imposed on August 4, over 70 days ago, amidst the abrogation of the special rights and privileges of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for one of the parties, retorted sharply, saying: “ we are not sitting in appeal here as the Solicitor says, but we are certainly entitled to place before Your Lordships material to show that the government has so far not placed sufficient material to justify their action (restrictions)… They have been seeking adjournment for the past seven weeks. They have not produced any record of the order… The government should not be given any further time”.
Justice B.R. Gavai turned to Mr. Mehta and said the court could very well look into any administrative decisions passed by the government.
“If we want to look into it, we will look into it,” Justice Gavai addressed the SG.
“We certainly can examine it,” Justice R. Subhash Reddy also observed.
Justice Ramana said the court certainly would like to know why the government had still not produced the orders concerned.
‘Keep all orders in court’
“Mr. Mehta, please keep all the orders in the court,” Justice Ramana told the law officer.
“We are fighting with our hands tied behind our backs… The court should not give them (government) any further time,” Mr. Dave urged the Bench.
Mr. Mehta explained that there had been a change in the circumstances on the ground, for example, in the case of mobile connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir. These altered conditions required fresh responses from the government.
Next hearing on Oct. 24
The Bench reasoned with the petitioners that Mr. Mehta had already explained that personal inconveniences and changed circumstances factored in whatever delay in the past. The court gave the government more time to file its response and scheduled the case for hearing on October 24. There was no mention whether this would be the last opportunity for the government to place on record the official direction for a clampdown in J&K.
Mr. Mehta said the petitioners, including Kashmir journalist Anuradha Bhasin, had unnecessarily “expanded” the scope of their petition from seeking freedom of movement of journalists to the legality of the lock down itself.
To this, advocate Vrinda Grover, for Ms. Bhasin, countered that “we have not expanded the petitions. We have been asking the government to place the orders on record from the very first instance”.