The Supreme Court Monday sought responses from the Government of India (GoI) and Jammu and Kashmir on a plea seeking quashing of an order which restricts civilian traffic two days a week on the national highway (NH) stretch from Udhampur to Baramulla for movement of forces.
The state government issued an order on April 3 in which it said that keeping in view the Pulwama attack, another car bomb attack on forces’ convoy at Banihal and movement of forces during the Lok Sabha elections, no civilian traffic movement would be allowed on the NH stretch from 4 am to 5 pm twice a week.
The order said there would be two “dedicated days every week” — Sunday and Wednesday — for movement of security forces’ convoy when there would be no civilian traffic on the highway from Baramulla to Udhampur from 4 am to 5 pm.
The regulation of the vehicular movement on the NH would remain in force till May 31, it said.
A plea challenging the April 3 order came up for hearing on Monday before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
“Issue notice on the writ petition, as also on the prayer for interim relief, returnable within two weeks,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna.
The plea has been filed by Muzzafar Shah, the senior vice president of state political party ‘Awami National Conference’, and social worker Yasmeen Sonaullah.
The plea, filed through advocate Suhail Malik, alleged that the “absurd and draconian decision” to restrict civilian traffic movement on 270 kilometre stretch on national highway directly affects lives of lakhs of people and “its indirect economic and social impact is interminable”.
“The impugned order means a virtual lockdown of the valley two days every week which will directly affect 10,000 vehicles plying every hour, which includes vehicles carrying patients, students, tourists, businessmen and government officials,” the plea said, adding, “such an extreme step was not even adopted during the Kargil War in the year 1999”.
The plea said: “It is further submitted that the illogical, vindictive and notorious order would result in offices, schools, colleges, banks, airports, railway stations shut every two days a week.”
It further said that the order will “have a direct impact on the General Election of 2019 as it will disrupt the campaigning and constrict the ability of political parties and candidates to mobilise workers, set up public meetings and meet workers”.
It alleged that the prohibition on civilian traffic on the highway will have a “disastrous impact” on the tourism industry of the state and it was a “collective punishment” for the people of Kashmir.
It said the only ground on which the state has passed the order is the Pulwama attack in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed.
“It is further submitted that the respondent number one (J&K) is perhaps trying to imply that the cause of insurgency and resultant loss of lives in Jammu and Kashmir is owed to the presence of inhabitants in the state and not to inter alia intelligence failure, unfenced borders, weak foreign policy, animosity with neighbour countries, political divergence against meaningful dialogue with stake holders, obsolete counter insurgency strategy and equipment,” the plea claimed.