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Phones to buzz again tomorrow

Govt announces restoration of postpaid services; internet shutdown to continue

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Oct 12: Two days after lifting security advisory for tourists, Jammu and Kashmir government Saturday announced to restore postpaid mobile telephony in all the 10 districts of the valley from Monday noon.

However, internet services will continue to remain suspended though government has decided to restore the service at tourist places to facilitate the visitors.

 “After reviewing the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, a decision was taken to restore mobile phone facilities in all the remaining areas of the state. More specifically, all post-paid mobile phones, irrespective of the telecom service provider, will stand restored and be functional from 12 noon on October 14. This will cover all 10 districts of Kashmir province,” Rohit Kansal, Principal Secretary and J&K government spokesperson, told reporters here on Saturday.

 

Jammu and Kashmir government had imposed a communication blockade on August 5 when Centre abrogated Article 370 and divided the state into two union territories.

“A number of restrictions were imposed on August 5 to prevent externally aided militants from disturbing peace and inflicting causalities on innocent citizens. It is a well-established fact that there have been sustained attempts from across the border, both in the past and more in the last two months to promote militancy in J&K in order to create a sense of fear among the people and keep the place in a disturbed condition,” said Kansal.

There are more than 70 lakh mobile phone subscribers in the valley of which 40 lakh alone are postpaid users. Kashmir is the only place in the country where postpaid phone subscribers outnumber prepaid subscribers.

The decision to restore postpaid mobile phone service in Kashmir comes two days after the government lifted August 2 travel advisory for tourists.   

“With this step, tourists will be able to visit the state without being handicapped by the lack of phone connectivity. Students can be in touch with parents while attending schools, businessmen can be in touch with customers, transporters can contact clients and contractors can be in touch with staff,” he said.

Kansal said travel advisory for tourists has been lifted and visitors are welcome to visit the state. “They will be facilitated for their visit. Internet facilities are being opened at tourist places to assist tourists wanting to access internet,” he said.

Government also urged businessmen, industrialists, traders, transporters, shopkeepers, hoteliers and contractors “not to be frightened by militant threats and separatists and go about their normal activities”.

“Credible inputs continue to be received of the likelihood of large scale damage of life and property but also create an atmosphere of fear and among the people.  Banned organizations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Hizbul Mujahideen continue to make attempts to instill fear of J&K,” he said.

Kansal said there was no “unnecessary” loss of life because of measures of security forces and the people. “This is remarkable, given the history of events in 2008, 2010 and 2016. Some killings and injuries have been inflicted by militants including on a baby to prevent traders, businessmen and transporters from doing their normal business,” he said.

Principal Secretary noted since August 16, there has been a gradual removal of the restrictions that were imposed and by the first week of September most of the restrictions were removed.

“Barring 8-10 police stations, movement restrictions have been completely removed. Over 99% of the area of Jammu and Kashmir has no restrictions on movement. Landlines have been fully restored and are functioning for over six weeks. Besides, mobile phone facilities were restored in Jammu and Ladakh, and subsequently in Kupwara district”, he said.

Kansal emphasized that the media was facilitated through the Media Facilitation Centre equipped with all facilities. “Schools were gradually reopened since August and universities, colleges and secondary schools were reopened in the last 10 days. Examination schedules have been announced. Air services are operating normally and air booking has been facilitated in Srinagar with new counters in the city,” he said.

Principal Secretary said 25 Internet kiosks are operating in each district in the district development commissioner offices to help students, contractors, and government departments to carry out their functions. Students have been using this facility to apply for exams, download admission cards, he said.

To help apple growers, he stated that an ambitious Market Intervention Scheme has been launched by the Central Government through NAFED and the Horticulture department. “Prices for apples have been revised last week”, he said.

‘Detentions being reviewed’

Srinagar, Oct 12:  Breaking silence, Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday said some people were detained as a preventive measures post August 5.

 “There has been a lot of development post August 5 and that was required a certain kind of action including detentions. Decisions were taken at the local level by law enforcing agencies after taking all facts into consideration. All these detentions are being reviewed. Security situation is continuously being accessed. People continue to be released and this process will go on,” said Rohit Kansal, J&K government spokesperson.


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CJI’s office comes under RTI, rules SC

Agencies

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New Delhi, Nov 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that the office of the Chief Justice of India was a public authority and fell within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict and dismissed three appeals filed by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court.

Cautioning that RTI could be used as a tool of surveillance, the top court in its judgment, held that judicial independence had to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.

 

The bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said only the names of judges recommended by the Collegium for appointment could be disclosed, not the reasons.

While the CJI and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna penned one judgment, Justices Ramana and Chandrachud wrote separate verdicts.

It said that the Right to Privacy was an important aspect and it had to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the Chief Justice. Justice Chandrachud said the judiciary could not function in total insulation as judges enjoy constitutional posts and discharge public duty.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna said independence of the judiciary and transparency went hand in hand.

Justice Ramana, who concurred with Justice Khanna, said there should be a balancing formula for Right to Privacy and right to transparency and independence of judiciary should be protected from breach.

The High Court on January 10, 2010 had held that the CJI office came within the ambit of the RTI law, saying judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.

The 88-page judgment was seen as a personal setback to the then CJI, K G Balakrishnan, who had been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

The high court verdict was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah (since retired) and Justices Vikramjit Sen and S Muralidhar. The bench had dismissed a plea of the Supreme Court that contended bringing the CJI’s office within the RTI Act would ‘hamper’ judicial independence.

Justice Sen has retired from the apex court, while Justice Murlidhar is a sitting judge of the High Court.

The move to bring the office of the CJI under the transparency law was initiated by RTI activist S C Agrawal. His lawyer Prashant Bhushan had submitted in the top court that though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it was hearing the appeals due to the “doctrine of necessity”.

The lawyer had described the reluctance of the judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘disturbing’, asking: “Do judges inhabit a different universe?”

He had submitted the apex court had always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State, but it developed cold feet when its own issues required attention. Referring to the RTI provisions, Bhushan had said they also deal with exemptions and information that cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always ‘outweigh’ personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office. Dealing with ‘judicial independence’, he said the National Judicial Accountability Commission Act was struck down for protecting the judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from ‘public scrutiny’.

Transparency activists on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying the apex court had reiterated the established position in law in the matter.

“I welcome the decision of the constitution bench to reiterate the established position in law that the CJI is a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,” said Venkatesh Nayak, head of access to information programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO.

About the Supreme Court’s remark that RTI could not be used as a tool of surveillance, Nayak termed it as an “extremely unfortunate” observation. “Surveillance has unfortunately been equated with transparency that is required under a law duly passed by Parliament,” he told PTI.

Nayak said surveillance was what the government often does under executive instructions and that was not the purpose of the RTI Act. “People whose cases relating to their life, liberty, property and rights, are decided by the high courts and the Supreme Court. People have the right to know not only the criteria but all material that formed the basis of making the decision regarding appointments of judges in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act,” he said.

Nayak said where exemptions were available under the RTI Act, they would be legitimately invoked by public authorities and all other information should be in the public domain. He said the appointment of judges, who were public functionary, was a public act.

“People have the right to know everything that is done in a public way by a government, in a democratic country, which must be accountable and responsible,” Nayak said. Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi also hailed the top court’s decision. “I had expected the same decision to come as logically there was nothing else. It is unfortunate that this has taken 10 years. The CIC has upheld this. The Delhi HC had also upheld this. Now, the SC has upheld this. All public servants that are paid by the government are a public service, no matter what the position is. You need to be accountable for your work. I congratulate the Chief Justice and the court for having given such a decision,” he said.

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal lauded the top court’s verdict. “I welcome the Supreme Court’s verdict. It is a victory of the RTI Act,” he said.

Another activist Ajay Dubey said the apex court’s decision was ‘historic’. “It is a historic decision and I welcome it. All decisions made by a public authority must be in public domain and under the RTI Act,” he said.

Dubey, however, expressed shock over the top court’s remark that the RTI Act cannot be used as a tool of surveillance.

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Shopkeeper shot dead in Tral

Monitor News Bureau

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Srinagar, Nov 13: Unidentified gunmen shot dead a shopkeeper at Tral in South Kashmir’s Puwlama district on Wednesday, police said.

The slain was in his shop near Old Bus Stand, Tral, 36 kms from here, when pistol borne masked men shot at him from point-blank range at around 3 p.m.

Zarger was immediately shifted to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead.

 

A police official while confirming the killing said the slain hailed from Tral town.

Reports said the killing created panic in the town.

In recent weeks, militants have started targeting civilians and hurling grenades at crowded places to impose shutdown in the Valley.

Last Monday one civilian died while over 40 were injured when militants threw a grenade in a crowded market near city center Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

Prior to that, non-local laborers, truck drivers and fruit traders were targeted by the militants in south Kashmir.

On August 30, unidentified gunmen shot dead a 65-year-old shopkeeper at Parimpora area of Srinagar.  On September 30, unidentified gunmen shot at apple grower at Sopore leaving the grower and four others including a four-year-old girl injured.

The Valley witnessed spontaneous shutdown after the Center abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5.

However, in recent weeks the impact of the shutdown is waning as more and more people are resuming their normal activities across Kashmir.

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Yet another accident: Four killed, 5 injured in Kishtwar mishap

Press Trust of India

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Jammu, Nov 13: Four people were killed and five others injured when a vehicle skidded off the road and rolled down into a deep gorge in Kishtwar district on Wednesday, officials said.

The vehicle, carrying pilgrims from Palmar to the Sarthal temple, fell into the gorge after the driver lost control over it, they said.

Police and locals rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to a district hospital in Kishtwar, where doctors declared four of them brought dead, the officials said.

 

Three critically injured people were shifted to the Government Medical College here through a chopper for specialised treatment.

District administration, Kishtwar, provided immediate relief of Rs 10,000 each to the family members of the deceased and 5,000 each to the injured.

This is the second such incident in 24 hours as 16 people, including five women and three children, were killed on Tuesday when a passenger vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge in Doda district.

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