The Supreme Court order on Internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir provided fresh ammunition to opposition leaders for renewed offensive against the government as they hailed the judgement as a "rebuff to the unconstitutional and arrogant" regime and which "belies false claims of normalcy" in the newly-carved out union territory. Parts of India's only Muslim-majority state have been offline since August 5, leaving some 7 million people without service.
The court also wanted the government to consider lifting of complete suspension of internet services only as an extraordinary measure.
Outside access to the region remains limited, with no foreign journalists allowed to visit since the clampdown began. "In Jammu and Kashmir the entire team that designs and executes the plan should be changed, a new group of administrators respecting the Constitution should be appointed", Chidambaram said in a tweet while snubbing the centre on the restrictions in the Valley.
Last month, authorities enforced an internet clampdown in parts of the Kashmiri capital as well as in parts of India's eastern state of Assam and Uttar Pradesh in the north, due to protests against a controversial new citizenship law that Muslims perceive as discriminatory.
The region has not had access to internet for more than 150 days, the longest such shutdown in India.
"We will try our best to balance the human rights and freedoms with the issue of security", said the top court. But 159 days on, the shutdown has hit the Kashmiri economy, strained the work of doctors in hospitals, and made it hard for family members to contact one another.
Sudan came second to Iraq with total internet and social media blackouts at 1,560 hours costing $1.9 billion.
Free speech through internet is a fundamental right under Article 19.
Defense lawyer Vrinda Grover said the Supreme Court had also ordered the Indian government to publish all orders that would block Kashmir in August after Article 370 of the constitution, which gave Kashmir special status, was revoked. "An order passed under Section 144, CrPC should state the material facts to enable judicial review of the same". The apex court further said that power under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (prohibitory orders) is exercisable not only where there exists present danger, but also when there is an apprehension of danger and repetitive orders under this provision would be an abuse of power.
The court said the indefinite suspension violated India's telecoms rules, and ordered authorities in Kashmir to review all curbs in a week's time.
"We discussed the situation in Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370 and told the delegation the move (to scrap Article 370) was neither expected by people nor did they want it to happen", said G.H. Mir, chairman, Democratic Party Nationalist, who was part of the political delegation.