New Delhi: Claiming there was absolute normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir after the government’s Article 370 move, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the J&K administration, told the Supreme Court Thursday that 3,200 caesarean deliveries have taken place in the union territory since August.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai was hearing petitions challenging the communication clampdown in J&K that affected “freedom of the press” and “freedom of movement”.
One of the petitioners was Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin, who was represented by senior advocate Dushyant Dave. He wrapped up his arguments Wednesday.
Political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla was another petitioner, who was represented by senior advocate Meenakshi Arora. Another petitioner was law student Aleen Syed, whose parents live in Kashmir. Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde appeared for Syed, who had filed the plea after he failed to visit his parents due to the lockdown.
Debunking the argument that people had problems accessing healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir during the lockdown, Mehta told the Supreme Court the J&K administration was alert and responsive to people’s needs and requirements.
Giving a lowdown on the medical response infrastructure in the union territory, Mehta said there were over 15,000 major surgeries and over 16,000 minor surgeries performed in various hospitals in J&K. The caesarean deliveries are included in these figures.
He added that 48,000 laboratory tests, 5,000 MRI scans, 13,000 CT scans, 45,000 X-rays and 1,078 dialyses were conducted since 5 August.
OPIndia report cited
Mehta argued citing a news report in OpIndia to debunk the “misinformation” spread after the scrapping of Article 370.
“The allegation (of people being unable to access healthcare facilities in the Valley) has been made on the basis of a report on the website IndiaSpend. The website IndiaSpend was caught spreading misinformation,” he said.
At this point, senior advocate Arora objected. “Who is OpIndia,” asked Arora, to which Mehta, said, “You want me to divulge about my messenger?”
Mehta also stated that if the top court declares the lockdown as arbitrary, then the rights of the citizens in J&K would be at stake.
While arguing on how the lockdown affected normal life in J&K, Arora cited the recent ruling of a Hong Kong court, which declared the government’s mask ban unconstitutional and upheld the citizens’ right to protest.
Mehta, however, didn’t say anything on the Hong Kong court’s judgment but added there was a tendency to rely on foreign judgments. He then said that in countries likes the US, freedom of speech is absolute but remains subject to reasonable restrictions in India.
“There (in the US), burning of the national flag is considered as freedom of expression. Journalists in the US may publish the name and identity of a rape victim…but in India laws and jurisprudence are different,” argued the solicitor general.
Statistics on normalcy in Kashmir
Mehta laid down statistics before the top court to emphatically prove that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is normal.
He stated that all 59 lakh mobile connections and 93,247 landlines were restored, 20,411 schools reopened and banking services were fully functional. He added that there is a proposal to restore internet services too.
Mehta also said that there was a considerable reduction in stone-pelting incidents and no civilian deaths due to police firing had been reported since 5 August.
He further said the administration earned nearly Rs 25 crore through tourism as over 34 lakh tourists visited J&K since August.
Other indicators of normalcy, according to Mehta, is that shops are open throughout the day and that Dish TV, Doordarshan and local TV channels are also airing.
“There is no shortage of essential commodities and all government offices are fully functional with cases being heard and disposed of,” added Mehta.
Kashmir Times didn’t ‘choose’ to publish
Mehta said the J&K administration is of the view that Bhasin did not choose to publish her paper deliberately even though other newspapers did. He then said Bhasin had an “undisclosed intention”.
He said over 70 newspapers have published their editions in J&K after the government’s Article 370 move and that it was only Bhasin who “chose” not to publish.
“I am alleging that she has chosen not to publish her newspaper from Srinagar. It is her decision to publish from Jammu and perhaps to continue with her contention that everything is shut in the Valley,” Mehta argued.
He also cited the setting up of a media facilitation centre for journalists with internet connection and computers to ensure they could file their stories.
Mehta also said that restrictions were imposed en masse as it was “difficult to differentiate” between terrorists and common people.
“It is difficult to draw a line between separatists, terrorists, secessionists and the general public. It would be foolish not to take preventive measures where the land has history of 22,000 terrorists being killed and many separatists operating in it. Hurriyat leaders have been beneficiaries of funds from Pakistan ISI and were tasked to create unrest in the valley. They look after families of killed terrorists,” he added.