April 2019 News

There Cannot Be Absolute Restrictions: HC On Highway Ban Order

9 April 2019
Kashmir Reader
Nusrat Sidiq

Srinagar: To test the legality of the government's ban on civilian traffic on the national highway, the J&K High Court on Tuesday issued notices to state and central government authorities to file their counter affidavit on the issue by April 19. The court directed the Union Defence Ministry as well as the Union Ministry of Transport to file their reply in this regard. Taking up five petitions today filed by independent individuals as well as three political parties - National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, and Shah Faesal's JK People's Movement - a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan directed the authorities to safeguard rights of common people. The court observed that a commoner travelling for livelihood or for medical emergency, or for study or some other genuine reason, has to be given free passage. The court remarked that there cannot be absolute restrictions. Counsels Jahnagir Iqbal Ganai and Riyaz Ahmad Jan argued before the court that the common man was suffering because of the government order. Petitioner Shafqat Nazir in his petition argued that the order had been passed for the safety of Security Forces, which, as per media reports, were themselves not satisfied with the order of dedicating two days in a week for convoy movement. 'Therefore, the impugned order is neither good for the security forces nor for general public,' Shafkat Nazir submitted. He also submitted that the order regulating traffic could have been passed by the respective District Magistrates under Section 144 CrPC as per requirement and feasibility. 'The District Magistrate of one district may find it essential to regulate traffic while the District Magistrate of another district may not find it required at all. Placing blanket ban on movement of people from Udhampur to Baramulla is not in consonance with law,' Nazir said as he pressed his argument. Nazir also argued that if the court was not inclined to pass any interim order at this stage, then the state government must take a stand on the movement of convoys on days other than the two days a week dedicated to it. Additional Advocate General (AAG) BA Dar, who was on Monday directed to seek instructions from JK Government, informed the court today that already the state administration has made exemptions in the ban order for medical emergencies, lawyers and students. The court recorded the submission of the AAG and noted the minutes of the meeting chaired by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir today in which it was said that all medical emergencies shall be kept beyond restrictions and medical prescriptions will be treated as travel passes. It was also said by the Divisional Commissioner in the meeting that lawyers of High Court and other courts shall be exempted from the restrictions and their identity cards shall be treated as travel passes. Also stated in the meeting was that magistrates- facilitators and police personnel present at critical intersections of the NH will ensure that commuters are allowed to pass in a hassle-free manner. The court remarked that the issue of the ban will be considered on account of both security and the problems faced by common people. The petitions challenging the ban order were filed by Shah Faesal through Advocate Tassaduq Khawaja, by National Conference leader Ali Mohammad Sagar through Advocate Isaac Qadri, by PDP leader Naeem Akhtar through Advocate Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, and independent petitions were filed by Advocate Shafkat Nazir and Raja Faisal Zahoor of Anantnag.