Relief for democracy

SC ruling on Internet, Sec 144 deserves plaudits

Relief for democracy

IT may have been late in coming, some would argue, but the Supreme Court order asking for a review of orders on suspension of the Internet would come as a ray of hope if not a sigh of relief in the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The right to access the Internet being described as a fundamental right, subject to reasonable restrictions, and according protection under Article 19 (freedom of speech and expression) to trade and commerce through the Internet have set a bold new governance template. Now on, the suspension of Internet services cannot be extended for an unlimited period, and would be subject to judicial review. Of equal, and perhaps more, significance is the apex court saying that prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC cannot be used as a tool to suppress difference of opinion. That a magistrate should apply the doctrine of proportionality to strike a balance between the danger to national security and liberty of citizens, and be very careful while exercising his or her powers is an important reminder to the judicial officers by the Supreme Court that we still are a free and democratic nation.

By any stretch of imagination, five months without Internet access has been a countermeasure incommensurate with the law and order challenge at hand since the revocation of the erstwhile state’s special status. The hard-hitting impact on trade, business, education, healthcare and tourism — in fact, all facets of life in this technology-driven age — is difficult to gauge except by those who have had to endure it.

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ the Bench quoted from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, alluding to Kashmir being a land of inherent contradictions — paradise on earth, but with a history of violence. That said, the court also made it clear that while it cannot dwell into political decisions, the pendulum should not swing in any extreme direction. Right to life should be secured in the best possible manner. Rightly so.

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