- Background: Two journalistic bodies, Foundation for Media Professionals and Indian Journalists Union had filed intervention applications in Anuradha Bhasin's petition challenging the communication shutdown in Kashmir. Both interventions were allowed by the Supreme Court in today's hearing.
- Legality of Shutdown: After almost two months, the State of Jammu and Kashmir has filed an affidavit stating that the communication shutdown was ordered under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. However, actual copies of the orders have still not been produced.
Court allows Intervention by Journalist Bodies
In today's hearing, a 3 judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices N.V. Ramana, Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai decided to allow Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) and the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) to intervene in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India. In her writ petition, Ms. Bhasin, who is the Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, had challenged the communication shutdown in Kashmir for violating the freedom of the press guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
IFF has assisted both FMP and IJU with drafting, strategy and counsel coordination in this case. FMP is a registered society established by eminent journalists such as Mr. Manoj Mitta and it is currently headed by Mr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. FMP was represented by Senior Advocate, Mr. Dushyant Dave and Advocate on Record, Ms. Astha Sharma and Advocates, Ms. Kajal Dalal and Mr. Abhishek Manchanda. IJU is the largest body of journalists in India and it has over 23,000 members. IJU was represented in these proceedings by its Secretary General, Ms. Sabina Inderjit and its legal team comprising of Advocate on Record, Mr. Shadan Farasat and Advocates, Ms. Jahnavi Sindhu and Ms. Shruti Narayan.
Legal Basis of Communication Shutdown Revealed
FMP and IJU had both filed intervention applications in the case to support the Petitioner. The intervention applications emphasized on the watchdog function performed by the free press and highlighted the debilitating impact of the communication shutdown on journalists. The intervention applications also raised concerns about the legal basis of the communication shutdown being unknown because as on the date of filing, there were no orders authorizing the shutdown available in the public domain.
After almost two months of the communication shutdown, the short affidavit filed by the State of Jammu and Kashmir in court today has finally shed some light on the legal basis of the shutdown. The affidavit states that telecom services were suspended pursuant to orders passed under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 by the Inspector General of Police which were subsequently confirmed by the Principal Secretary, Home Department. According to the affidavit, the communication shutdown was intended to prevent "dissemination of iniquitous and specious rumours, fake propaganda, misusing social media sites and for preventing activities that could disturb public order and tranquility." However, the actual orders and specifics regarding when and where they were imposed are still not available.
For detailed live tweets of today's hearing, check out these threads by Vakasha Sachdev (The Quint), Bar and Bench and Live Law. The next date of hearing in the case is 16 October 2019 subject to confirmation by the court's order which will be available later in the day. The Petitioner and Intervenors have also been granted liberty to respond to the State of Jammu and Kashmir's affidavit. As always, we will keep you posted about how the case proceeds.
- Affidavit filed by State of Jammu and Kashmir (link)