New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said it will wait for some time before passing any direction on the plea seeking removal of restrictions on the media in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre said curbs are being lifted gradually.
During the hearing, the Centre told the apex court that the situation is improving in Jammu and Kashmir and the curbs are being lifted gradually.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S A Bobde and S A Najeer said, "We would like to give little time. We have read in newspaper today that landline and broadband connections are being restored gradually. Therefore, we will take up the petition with other connected matters," the bench said.
"The landlines are working. We also got a call today from the CJ of J-K HC," the bench further said.
"We will see when the matter can be listed for hearing. We will fix a date on the administrative side," the bench said.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor, Kashmir Times, said there was a need for early restoration of communication mode for journalists to carry out their work.
"My matter is related to freedom press," Grover said and added it had nothing to do with Article 370.
At this point, the bench said it can also refer this matter to the bench which on Tuesday had entertained a similar petition.
Another bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, on Tuesday had refused to interfere with the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir government imposing several restrictions, saying "reasonable time" be given for bringing normalcy in the sensitive situation and had decided to hear the issue after two weeks.
During Friday's hearing, Grover submitted that there had been a lot of curtailment on the movement of media personnel and there has been blackout on the publication of newspapers because of the communication shut down.
The advocate said there have been some reporting only from Srinagar and the role of the press as the fourth state has to be maintained.
Attorney General K K Venugopal said he had read Kashmir Times, which had been published from Jammu, and permission has been granted to all media to function from all other places.
He expressed surprise why Kashmir Times was not published from Srinagar.
"So far the situation is concerned it would gradually be settled and, therefore, there is no need to jump to any conclusion," Venugopal said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that there was no need to entertain the petition seeking lifting of curbs on media.
He said people should trust the security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and authorities are taking stock of situation on day-to-day basis.
He said some time should be given to bring normalcy in the region.
The petition filed by Bhasin had sought removal of restrictions imposed on working of journalists in the state after scrapping of provisions of Article 370.
Bhasin has sought restoration of all modes of communication, including mobile Internet and landline services, throughout the state in order to provide an enabling environment for the media to practise its profession.
In the petition, the editor said she is seeking a direction for the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to immediately relax all restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir and some districts of Jammu.
The direction was sought in order to enable media personnel to practise their profession and exercise their right to report in furtherance of their rights under Article 14, 19 (1) (a) and 19 (1) (g) and 21 of the Constitution as well as the right to know of residents of Kashmir Valley, the petition said.
In the petition, the editor submitted that since August 4, all connectivity was shutdown leaving Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut-off from all possible modes of communication and information.
"No formal orders, under which such action was taken, were communicated by the Centre and state administrators, and power and authority under which such excessive and arbitrary action was ordered is still unknown to the petitioner," the plea submitted.
It said on August 5, orders under section 144 of the CrPC were issued and all of Kashmir was placed under a de facto curfew and severe restrictions imposed on movement.
Press identity cards of reporters were not given any attention and they were effectively disabled from reporting on the situation by restricting their movement, the petition submitted, adding due to severe and pervasive restrictions imposed by authorities her newspaper Kashmir Times, Srinagar edition could not be distributed and circulated on August 5.
The editor submitted that since August 6 the newspaper's Kashmir edition has not been printed and published as complete and absolute restrictions on communication services and movement has resulted in the imposition of a de facto blockade on media activities, including reporting and publishing on the situation in the valley.