The Supreme Court while hearing petitions challenging restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday stated that the right to access the internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
"It is no doubt that freedom of speech is an essential tool in a democratic setup. The freedom of Internet access is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution," a two-judge bench headed by Justice N V Ramana stated while reading out the judgment.
The top court said that Kashmir has seen a lot of violence and that it will try to maintain a balance between human rights and freedoms with the issue of security.
It also directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review the restrictive orders imposed in the region within a week. “The citizens should be provided highest security and liberty,” the apex court added.
The top court made observations and issued directions while pronouncing the verdict on a number of petitions challenging the restrictions and internet blockade imposed in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year.
The Supreme Court had on November 27 reserved the judgment on a batch of petitions challenging restrictions imposed on communication, media and telephone services in Jammu and Kashmir pursuant to revocation of Article 370.
The court heard the petitions filed by various petitioners including Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin.
The petitions were filed after the central government scrapped Article 370 in August and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Following this, phone lines and the internet were blocked in the region.
The government had, however, contended that it has progressively eased restrictions.