The Supreme Court of India on Friday issued an order to the central government and to the administration of the states of Jammu and Kashmir to begin an immediate review of restrictions on movement and landline, mobile phone, and internet access in those states.
Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir has been blocked since August of last year, in what has been called the longest internet clampdown in the history of a democratic nation. The orders cracking down on movement and communication came as the government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status.
The petitioners to the court included editors and journalists whose rights were severely curtailed by lack of internet and phone communication and restrictions on freedom of movement. In its decision, the court formulated a “doctrine of proportionality” that the government must adhere to in the future when deciding whether or not to place such limits. When issuing an order that would restrict a “fundamental right,” any limitation “without appropriate justification will be classified as disproportionate.” The government response to any emergency situation must therefore be proportionate to the circumstances and to the individual rights involved. Such decisions, the court said, are subject to judicial review, and the court gave a list of factors it would consider in determining the legality of any restrictions imposed:
The concept of proportionality requires a restriction to be tailored in accordance with the territorial extent of the restriction, the stage of emergency, nature of urgency, duration of such restrictive measure and nature of such restriction. The triangulation of a restriction requires the consideration of appropriateness, necessity and the least restrictive measure before being imposed.
The court ordered the government to review, using this rule of proportionality, all restrictions that have been placed upon Jammu and Kashmir, and publish the results of the review within one week.