The bench also ordered the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review all restrictive orders within a week and put in the public domain all orders that can then be challenged in a court of law.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday began hearing the petitions challenging the restrictions and internet blockade imposed in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August last year. Ruling that the right to access the internet is a fundamental right, the apex court ordered the restoration of the internet along with e-banking and trade services in the Valley.

The bench also ordered the Jammu and Kashmir administration to review all restrictive orders within a week and put in the public domain all orders that can then be challenged in a court of law.

“Kashmir has seen a lot of violence. We will try our best to balance the human rights and freedoms with the issue of security. We will not delve into the political intent behind the orders given,” the bench said, as it began reading the verdict on the restrictions in the Valley.

“It is no doubt that freedom of speech is an essential tool in a democratic setup. Freedom of Internet access is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of free speech. An order to suspend internet for an indefinite period is not permissible. Suspending internet should be reviewed forthwith. Such suspension can only be for a limited time period and is subject to judicial review,” the bench added, challenging the restrictions imposed by the Centre in Jammu and Kashmir, following the scrapping of Article 370.

The bench said further that whenever the government decides to suspend the internet, it must give a detailed reason for the decision to allow an aggrieved person to challenge it in the court.

The court also ordered that all restrictive orders are to be made public so that they can be challenged legally.

On November 27, the court had reserved the judgment on a batch of petitions challenging restrictions imposed on communication, media and telephone services in Jammu and Kashmir pursuant to revocation of Article 370. A bench of Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and B R Gavai had heard the petitions filed by various petitioners including Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin.

The petitions were filed after the central government scrapped Article 370 in August and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two UTs — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Following this, phone lines and the internet were blocked in the region.

Government, on the other hand, had justified the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir saying due to preventive steps taken, neither a single life was lost nor a single bullet was fired. The government also claimed that it has progressively eased restrictions in the region.