SC rejects claims J&K limits' chilling effect on media

SC rejects claims J&K limits' chilling effect on media

Journalists wait for their turn to access the internet at a temporary media centre set up by the government, on the 42nd day following the abrogation of Article 370, in Srinagar, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. Internet services remained suspended across all platforms, while landline across the valley were functional, voice calls on mobile devices were working only in Kupwara and Handwara police districts of north Kashmir. (PTI Photo

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected claims that restrictions imposed by Jammu and Kashmir government on communications and movements since August 4, 2019 had a chilling effect on media.

“Without such evidence on record, it would be impossible to distinguish a legitimate claim of chilling effect from a mere emotive argument for a self-serving purpose,” a bench of Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai said

The court, however, said responsible governments were required to respect the freedom of the press at all times and accommodate journalists in reporting since there cannot be any justification to allow a sword of Damocles hanging over the press indefinitely.

Kashmir Times executive editor, Anuradha Bhasin challenged validity of restrictions, contending the cumulative effect of various curbs including on internet and communication indirectly affected the freedom of the press in the valley.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta countered her claims saying that there were other newspapers which were running during the time period.

“To say that the restrictions were unconstitutional because it has a chilling effect on the freedom of press generally is to say virtually nothing at all or is saying something that is purely speculative, unless evidence is brought to enable the court to give a clear finding, which has not been placed on record in the present case,” the bench added.

The court said in view of fact that the petitioner has resumed publication, it would not wish go further into the issue.

"There is no doubt that the freedom of the press is a valuable and sacred right enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. This right is required in any modern democracy without which there cannot be transfer of information or requisite discussion for a democratic society," the bench added.

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