United States airs concern over detention of Kashmir leaders, internet curbs

Envoys from 15 countries to visit troubled Indian-administered Kashmir region in EU-boycotted tour

Envoys from 15 countries to visit troubled Indian-administered Kashmir region in EU-boycotted tour

Most importantly, it made an observation that such restrictions can be challenged before the high courts, and ought not to be upheld unless the restrictions fall within the parameters of this Supreme Court judgment.

The apex court concluded that the suspension of broad telecom services, be it the internet or otherwise, being a drastic measure, "which must be considered by the state only if "necessary" and "unavoidable".

Pakistan has been unsuccessfully trying to drum up global support against India for withdrawing Jammu and Kashmir's special status. Today's ruling does not restore it. "The power under Section 144 can not be used to suppress legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights", said the court. Such trade and freedom to practise then is a constitutionality protected as fundamental right under Article 19 (1)(g). Such Internet shutdown also impacted the freedom of the press, which is part of freedom of speech and expression.

India's top court has ordered the government to review all restrictions, including suspension of internet service, in Indian-controlled Kashmir within a week, saying the indefinite suspension of people's rights had amounted to an abuse of power. But by describing as a fundamental right, the court has actually set the way for a positive government response after a week.

"Power under Section 144 can not be used to suppress legitimate expression". An order for restriction of internet is judged on the parameters of the law by the courts, and concealment of such orders makes the legal examination of such orders that much harder. But the US State Department also voiced concern over the detention of political leaders and the internet blockade in the region. And that the right to life should be secured in the best possible manner.

The court said that internet services are intrinsic to right to free speech and can not be suspended without providing reason and duration there of. The court heard the petitions filed by various petitioners including Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin.

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The State Department has described the recent visit of envoys of 15 countries, including that of the USA, to Jammu and Kashmir as an "important step" but expressed concern over the continued detention of political leaders and restrictions on internet in the region.

This time there was no hartal call and shops and business establishments were functioning and civilian traffic was seen on the roads unlike the October visit of the delegation of Members of European Parliament, which was organised by a private NGO.

Television grabs of the envoys of 15 countries being whisked through the streets of Srinagar in a cavalcade on Thursday amid heavy security cover was itself evidence that normalcy is far from being restored in Jammu and Kashmir. Most of the diplomats including United States diplomat Kenneth Juster praised the security arrangements made during the visit. Businesses were crippled because of the unrest and widespread detentions, along with continuing restrictions and strikes.

According to Reuters, the clampdown has cost occupied Kashmir's economy a loss of more than $2.4 billion as sectors directly dependent on the internet with commerce and information technology the worst hit. Local newspapers are not free to write. Mere expression of dissent or disagreement against a government decision can not be a reason for Internet suspension, the Bench headed by Justice N V Ramanna also said.

Depression and panic attacks have become common amongst the youth, terrified of the "midnight knock" as one of them put it.

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