Four PILs filed challenge National Highway Ban, Rajnath rules out rollback

The J&K High Court has directed the state administration to file its response to four public interest litigations (PILs), which have termed the recent order banning the civilian movement on the Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla highway “as arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional” and sought its immediate quashing.

Issuing notices to the state administration and also keeping the matter on board for further directions on Wednesday, a division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan on Monday directed Additional Advocate General Bashir Ahmad Dar, representing the state, to come up with a response tomorrow mentioning the “alternate arrangements and other suggestions”.

The J&K administration had on April 3 issued a notification ordering the closure of the highway for the civil and public transport from Baramulla to Udhampur every Sunday and Wednesday to facilitate the movement of security forces for the Lok Sabha election. It will remain effective till May 31.

Seeking quashing of the ban order dated April 3 issued by the Commissioner Secretary, Home, J&K Government, the petitioners have termed it as “an arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional” order.

The four petitions that were listed before the bench on Tuesday and all treated as PILs, which have been filed by former IAS officer-turned-politician Shah Faesal, High Court lawyer Shafqat Nazir and two Valley-based residents Raja Faisal Zahoor and Arif Javed. All of them came up before the division bench on Monday.

Later in the day, a fifth PIL challenging the highway ban order was filed by senior PDP leader and former Cabinet minister Naeem Akhtar, which is likely to be clubbed with the other four petitions when the matter comes up again on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Monday said there would be no option with the government other than abolishing articles 370 and 35A related to special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the Constitution if there is a demand for a separate Prime Minister for the state.

Addressing a BJP election rally here, Rajnath asked the Congress to clarify its stand whether or not it supports the demand and said “such things” must be stopped.
“Someone who has been chief minister for a long time has said that there should be a Prime Minister in Jammu and Kashmir. If someone talks like that, we will have no option other than abolishing Article 370 and Article 35A,” the minister said.

Singh said Congress must make it clear whether it accepts that the country should have two prime ministers.
“Such things can not go on and on. It has to be stopped,” he said

On militancy, the minister said a befitting reply would be given to those who take up arms. “If someone takes up arms, we can go to whatever extent required to give them a befitting reply,” Singh said.

He said the country is now in the “strong hands” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The home minister said the Government of India (GoI) was ready for talks but those who are raising the Kashmir issue were not interested in any dialogue.
Singh said considering the future of the children of Jammu and Kashmir, “we have forgiven 8,000 first time stone pelters but some people continue to instigate the stone pelters”.
“These are the biggest criminals,” he said.

The home minister said Jammu and Kashmir has not been ruled by “outsiders” but by political parties like NC, PDP or Congress for long.
Singh also highlighted the development works undertaken by the NDA government in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We have given highest assistance to Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

The Home Minister ruled out any rollback of the decision to restrict civilian traffic on Jammu-Srinagar highway twice a week for safe movement of forces convoys.
“Keeping in view the security of our forces and nation, we won’t succumb to any pressure and will not roll back the decision. I am sure that this must have reached to the quarters concerned and they should now stop making hue and cry over this,” he said referring to the criticism of the decision to ban civilian traffic on Wednesday and Sundays on the highway till May 31.
“What happened in Pulwama on February 14 when a suicide bomber attacked a CRPF convoy killing 40 CRPF personnel? They were here to safeguard the people of the state after leaving their homes,” he said.

On air strikes in Pakistan on February 26, Singh said the mission was carried out to wipe out the “terrorist training camp without attacking Pakistan Army or hurting any citizen of the neighbouring country, guided by the spirit of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who used to say that friends can be changed but not neighbours.”
“We will continue to adopt zero tolerance against terrorism and extremism and a secure India will lead to more determined India. For us, nation always comes first,” he said.

Without naming National Conference and PDP, he said the state had become a den of corruption under their rule.
“There are some people who are creating new problems to confuse the people and speak against the government. The youths of the state are intelligent but what is happening in the state,” he said.

He said those who consider themselves ‘messiah’ of Jammu and Kashmir are only looking after their political interests and not thinking about the future of the youths.

He said they have no answers and are misleading people of the state by raking up different issues. “They can confuse anyone but I, as home minister of the country, have taken a pledge that we will not allow it to continue like that. Let us see what happens.”