Jammu & Kashmir

No freedom of speech for stating Kashmir under military occupation, HC says

JKHC. [File Photo]

Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh last week held that statements that Kashmir is occupied by the military or that people of the region have been reduced to slaves would not be protected by the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, Bar and Bench reported.

The court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Muzamil Butt, seeking to quash an FIR against him under UAPA for Facebook posts criticising the killings of eight civilians in Kulgam district, according to the report.

Justice Sanjay Dhar said that Butt had, on his Facebook and other social media platforms, expressed outrage, but in two posts went to the extent of implying that Kashmir has been occupied by the military, which is like a cancer, and also that people of Kashmir are like slaves of the government.

“In my opinion, the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution cannot be stretched to such a limit as to allow a person to question the status of a part of the country or its people. It is one thing to criticise the government for its negligence and express outrage on the violation of human rights of the people but it is quite another to advocate that the people of a particular part of the country are slaves of the government of India or that they are under occupation of armed forces of the country,” the court, according to the report.

The judge said that being an advocate, Butt could understand what this could mean. It said that by posting such messages, Butt has crossed the Lakshman Rekha of free speech.

“By making these comments, he is certainly advocating and supporting the claim that Jammu and Kashmir is not a part of India and that it is occupied by Indian military with the people having being reduced to the status of slaves. Thus, he is questioning the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” Justice Dhar held, according to the report.

The court said that Butt’s actions fall within the definition of ‘unlawful activity’ as contained in Section 2(o) of the UAPA. It said his case was different from Vinod Dua’s, in which the Supreme Court quashed sedition charges.

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