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‘No immediate relief but implications for future’

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court directed the Centre to review its order on communication restrictions in J&K, saying any suspension of internet services for an indefinite period would be subjected to judicial scrutiny. According to legal experts, the order doesn’t spell any immediate relief, but it makes the government more accountable while imposing such restrictions in future.

Constitutional lawyer Gautam Bhatia said, “Though the court laid down several broad principles, it did not rule on the validity of the internet shutdown or imposition of Section 144 throughout the Valley. Since the SC concluded that people’s right to access to the internet, to get information and carry out trade and commerce through the internet, was a fundamental right, it should have declared the shutdown illegal and ordered internet to be restored.”

The order sets precedents that make internet shutdown process more transparent, ensure that there can’t be indefinite shutdowns and put onus on the government to justify such bans in future. But experts believe the order on imposing blanket restrictions under Section 144 o for indefinite periods in the wake of protestson CAA-NPR-NRC would help adjudicate the challenges pending before high courts against the curbs.
Senior advocate Rekha Agarwal said the SC should have ordered immediate restoration of rights, but added that the decision has strengthened democracy. All these years, government and police abused Section 144, but now they will have to be more careful, she said.