Suspension of free movement, Internet and basic freedoms cannot be an arbitrary exercise of power, the Supreme Court said today, ordering the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review within one week all restrictive orders in place since the decision to end special status in August. While delivering the verdict, Justice NV Ramana referred to the beauty of Kashmir, often described as "Paradise on Earth" and quoted from the famous opening lines of Charles Dickens' "A Tale Of Two Cities".
"Before I begin, I am reminded of few lines from the classic "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens;
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-
in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
The judge continued: "Although cherished in our heart as a 'Paradise on Earth', the history of this beautiful land is etched with violence and militancy. While the mountains of Himalayas spell tranquility, yet blood is shed every day. In this land of inherent contradictions, these petitions add to the list, wherein two sides have shown two different pictures which are diametrically opposite and factually irreconcilable."
The court's job was compounded by the magnitude of the task before it, said Justice Ramana. "It goes without saying that this Court will not delve into the political propriety of the decision taken herein, which is best left for democratic forces to act on. Our limited scope is to strike a balance between the liberty and security concerns so that the right to life is secured and enjoyed."
The court said the internet shutdown should be reviewed "forthwith" and asked the administration to make public all restrictive orders over the last five months.
The three-judge Supreme Court bench also criticized the repeated use of Section 144, a colonial-era rule to ban large gatherings, and said it "can't be used as a tool to oppress difference of opinion."