New Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS) The Centre on Tuesday sought to justify restrictions on internet in Kashmir, telling the Supreme Court that social media is an uncontrolled medium of communication where hashtags, groups etc, contribute towards fuelling anti-state sentiments, especially from forces across the border.
The court was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the order to impose restrictions on the Valley after the revocation of Article 370 on August 5.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir administration, contended before a three-judge bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana that Pakistani Army’s official Twitter handles have been posting anti-India material and instigating the people of Kashmir to begin an uprising against the forces of the state. He cited messages where emphasis has been laid on giving free passage to Afghani Taliban to enter Indian territory to deal with the government forces.
As the judges inquired about the multiplying effect of hashtags, Mehta explained, citing hashtag Afghan Taliban, that it is an idea which has a multiplying effect and within a few moments it can be circulated to lakhs of social media users.
The judges queried the Solicitor General on providing internet excluding social media platforms and cited an article published in a leading daily where limited internet was made available in Bihar, but he said: “It is not possible to segregate internet website, either you have internet or you not.” He, however, later agreed to raise this issue with authorities concerned.
Mehta also informed the court that terrorist use advanced security tools to shield their privacy. He cited the occurrence of an event in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, which was projected as an event in Jammu and Kashmir through morphed images. At this, the court said: “If it is circulated among one lakh persons, then it would result in larger consequences.”
He replied: “Terrorist uses this medium (social media) as most effective weapon of terrorism. Modern terrorism heavily relies on internet.”
The Centre also told the apex court that it regularly monitors the content uploaded on Pakistani Army’s official Twitter handles, and also emphasised on publication of articles, by people involved in the matter, as an attempt to influence the court proceedings.
The petitioners’ counsel opposed the Centre’s move to submit sensitive material in a sealed cover during the hearing but Mehta insisted this material is sensitive, and involves trans-border issues, and the court must see it as it is connected with national security. The petitioners’ counsel objected to this move by the Centre, and insisted that there is a possibility that the material could be used to challenge the orders of restrictions, which have been challenged before the court.
The petitioners also cited large-scale human rights involved in the case.
To this, Justice Ramana said: “Do you think we are shutting you down and not allowing you to argue the matter? We are looking at it and returning your presence.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, counsel for Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, then intervened, saying that they will assume it is sensitive material.
He also slammed the Jammu and Kashmir administration for relying on a news portal for claiming that life is normal in the region, telling the particular portal has been identified for spreading fake news.
Counsel of the Press Council of India told the court that he will read a few paragraphs of the top court’s judgement on reasonable restrictions, leading to a query from the court as to which side it represents in the case.
The hearing on the matter will continue.