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'Article 21, right to life and liberty, can never be suspended'

August 08, 2019 11:59 IST

'The government, through the media, is saying that everything is normal in Kashmir, but I just want them to give this in writing and let a judicial commission see it.'

IMAGE: A police officer checks papers of people on a road during restrictions in Srinagar. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters

Congress activist Tehseen Poonawalla approached the Supreme Court on Thursday against the government's decision to impose restrictions on the people in Jammu and Kashmir after revoking provisions of Article 370 in the state.

In the petition, he has sought withdrawal of 'curfew/restrictions' and other measures including blocking of phone lines and Internet.


However, the apex court has refused to accord urgent hearing to the plea, saying it will come up for hearing in due course.

Tehseen Poonawalla tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ that all he wants from the government is a written affidavit about the situation being normal in Kashmir.

Why have you moved the Supreme Court against the Centre regarding the clampdown in Kashmir?

I support the decision to abrogate Article 370 and ensuring that the Indian Constitution apply in the state; I am not challenging that.

I am very clear about that but if the Indian Constitution applies then Article 21 (states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person) is absolute and it can never be suspended and even the Kesavananda Bharati case says that (Kesavnanda Bharati versus State of Kerala 1973 upholds the supremacy of the Indian Constitution and prevented authoritarian rule by a single party and the moot question was can Parliament of India alter, amend, abrogate any part of the Constitution even to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights).

Therefore, I want the government to ensure that right to food, right to healthcare services is present and there is no difficulty. Article 19 (freedom of speech) and Article 14 (equality before law) can never be suspended and people must have rights under these articles of the Indian Constitution. The government, through the media, is saying that everything is normal in Kashmir, but I just want them to give this in writing and let a judicial commission see it.

But the main petition is Article 21, right to food, healthcare and milk products can never be suspended.

But what we saw on Wednesday in Kashmir was that the situation was improving; National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was in Shopian and interacted with locals of south Kashmir.

I believe them and I agree with them so let the government give this in an affidavit.

It has been only three days since Article 370 was diluted. Don’t you think you are rushing to file this affidavit too soon?

You just told me that everything is normal and NSA Ajit Doval is there too. I am simply asking that the government give this in an affidavit. What is wrong in that?

What Ajit Doval is saying and what you are saying and I am also saying is the same thing and we are on the same page. Am I saying Article 370 should stay? I am saying the Indian Constitution should stay. Government is saying food is available in J-K and Ajit Doval is saying the same, I am just saying give it in writing. What is wrong in that?

Kashmiris who aren't in the state have been tweeting that the situation is bad. Do you believe them?

I believe Ajit Doval. I am just saying that whatever Ajit Doval’s released video give it on an affidavit. Let the court see itself. Where is the question of not believing?

Did I say anything about Kashmiri tweeting from abroad? Have I mentioned about them? Do I care about them? I care about the Indian Constitution and that’s it. The matter ends there.

I don’t know why you are getting into what people abroad tweet, how does it matter to me? I believe what my government is saying.

Has there been any example in the past where this kind of clampdown has happened in Independent India?

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution can never be suspended. That is the factual position in law. Now is it or is it, not let the government give in writing. The government through Ajit Doval says it isn’t. I am saying give it in writing -- story ends there.

There is no question of what happened in the past. What happened in the past cannot be a justification for what happened now.