NEW DELHI: Amid reports that people were unable to reach law courts in India-held Kashmir after the heavily enforced lockdown, India’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Monday sought a report from the high court in the region, saying he would personally visit Srinagar if needed.

“If required, I will go and personally check, I will speak to the Chief Justice [of the J&K High Court] today,” said Justice Gogoi, while replying to senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi.

The advocate was arguing for child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha, who moved the apex court through a petition challenging the illegal detention of children in India-held Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 and the reorganisation of the region, reports said. The court observed that it is a serious concern if people are facing issues to access justice.

“You have made a statement that you cannot move the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Is anybody coming in the way ... Not being allowed to access the High Court is a serious concern,” Justice Gogoi said.

Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin who petitioned the apex court for ensuring greater freedom to the media in the region faced a similar query. Why was she not taking her petition to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court?

This is the third time Bhasin’s petition, against the “strict restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir”, was heard by the court of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices S.A. Bobde and S. Abdul Nazeer.

This time another report, by the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and the Free Speech Collective (FSC) was submitted as additional documents on the situation in Kashmir.

Journalists Laxmi Murthy and Geeta Seshu went to Kashmir for five days, between Aug 30 and Sept 3, to “determine the impact of the crackdown on communication on the media” there.

“The team observed a high degree of surveillance, informal ‘investigations’ and even the arrest of journalists who published reports considered adverse to the government or security forces; controls on the facilities available for print publication; government advertising to select publications,” NWMI wrote in a statement.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019