16 September 2019: Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has sought impleadment in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (WP Civil No. 1031 of 2019) filed by the Executive Editor of Kashmir Times against the communication shutdown in Kashmir. The application for impleadment was filed by Mr. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who is the President of FMP. In the impleadment application, FMP has argued that the communication shutdown and severe movement restrictions make it impossible for journalists to perform their duties as the fourth pillar of democracy.
Today’s hearing happened before a three judge bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Gogoi CJ, Bobde J and Nazeer J. The hearing commenced with Bobde J wondering if the situation prevailing in Kashmir is a communication shutdown or breakdown and why telecom service providers have not approached courts despite their business being affected. The Court then stated that it was difficult for judges sitting in New Delhi to know the actual fact situation prevailing in Kashmir and that the J&K High Court might be better suited to perform this role. In response, Advocate for the Petitioner, Ms. Vrinda Grover clarified that due to movement restrictions, lack of public transport and shutdown of communication channels, approaching the J&K High Court has become very difficult.
The Attorney General, Mr. KK Venugopal stated that several newspapers in Kashmir have been able to publish their daily editions. Additionally, the Government has issued movement passes to journalists and set up a Media Facilitation Centre and internet kiosks. Senior Advocate, Mr. Shekhar Naphade who was appearing on behalf of the Indian Journalists Union clarified that the Media Facilitation Centre established by the Government was severely inadequate because it just had 4 computers, 1 mobile phone and extremely slow internet. More importantly, journalists were too afraid to use this government controlled facility because they feared that their emails could be intercepted, and this would put them and their sources at risk for harassment, retaliation and violence. Senior Advocate, Mr. Dushyant Dave who was appearing on behalf of FMP further highlighted that there have been disturbing reports of journalists being abused and mistreated in Kashmir and this is a matter of serious concern.
The Court finally directed the Government to file its response to the writ petition and intervention applications, and it urged the Government to selectively restore communication channels keeping in mind security considerations. Please note that this is subject to confirmation by the written order which will be made available in the evening. The next date of hearing in the case is 30 September 2019. IFF assisted with drafting and counsel coordination for the impleadment application filed by FMP. The organization was represented in the Supreme Court by Senior Advocate, Mr. Dushyant Dave and Advocate on Record, Ms. Astha Sharma, and we are extremely grateful for their support.
- Copy of Intervention Application filed by FMP (link)