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Should authorities have waited for riots to take place, SC asks Azad

Should authorities have waited for riots to take place, SC asks Azad

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on his opposition to the imposition of various restrictions following the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status, and asked if the authorities should have "waited for riots to take place".

"In an issue like this, why cannot apprehension be there that the entire area or the place may be disturbed?" a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana asked Azad's party colleague and counsel Kapil Sibal, who argued that it was a "colourable exercise of power" on the part of the authorities to impose restrictions, including on communication and transportation.

The senior advocate was arguing that without having materials to support their apprehensions about danger to public tranquillity, the authorities cannot impose such restrictions.

He argued before the bench, also comprising justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, how the government can assume that the entire population would be against it and there would be law and order problem.

"In the 10 districts of the valley, was it necessary to paralyse seven million people like this? They have to show the materials," Sibal said, adding, "Here, we are not talking about rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir. We are talking about rights of people of India."

He said that the authorities may have apprehensions about law and order problem there but they need to have materials to back their apprehensions.

The bench asked, "Should they have waited for riots to take place?"

Responding to this, Sibal said, "How can they assume that riots will take place? It shows there is assumption in their minds and there are no materials. They can have intelligence input to say so."

He said that state has wide powers and if the situation arises, the authorities may impose section 144 (power to issue order in cases of nuisance on apprehended danger) of the CrPC.

Sibal said it is the bounden duty of the State to protect not only the rights of citizens but also those who are in need.

"What is happening in Jammu and Kashmir, people of India are entitled to know," he said while referring to restrictions imposed on modes of communication there.

"This is a complete misuse of section 144 of CrPC. It is colourable exercise of power. It is constitutionally impermissible," he said, adding, "You

cannot say that everyone living in a district may disturb the peace."

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