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SC seeks replies from Centre, J&K on highway traffic ban

State govt. has barred civilian traffic two days a week

The Supreme Court on Monday sought responses from the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir on a plea seeking quashing of an order which restricts civilian traffic two days a week on the national highway (NH) stretch from Udhampur to Baramulla for movement of security forces.

Pulwama attack

The State government issued an order on April 3 in which it said that keeping in view the Pulwama terror attack, another car bomb attack on security forces’ convoy at Banihal and movement of forces during the Lok Sabha elections, no civilian traffic movement would be allowed on the NH stretch from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. twice a week.

The order said there would be two “dedicated days every week” — Sunday and Wednesday — for movement of security forces’ convoy when there would be no civilian traffic on the national highway from Baramulla to Udhampur. The regulation of the vehicular movement on the NH would remain in force till May 31.

A plea challenging the April 3 order came up for hearing on Monday before a Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi which ordered issue of notice, returnable within two weeks.

The petition has been filed by Muzzafar Shah, senior vice-president of ‘Awami National Conference’, and social worker Yasmeen Sonaullah.

The plea alleged that the “absurd and draconian decision” to restrict civilian traffic movement on the 270 km stretch on the highway directly affects lives of lakhs of people and “its indirect economic and social impact is interminable.”

“The impugned order means a virtual lockdown of the valley two days every week which will directly affect 10,000 vehicles plying every hour, which include vehicles carrying patients, students, tourists, businessmen and government officials,” the plea said, adding, “such an extreme step was not even adopted during the Kargil War in 1999.”

The petitioner said: “It is further submitted that the illogical, vindictive and notorious order would result in offices, schools, colleges, banks, airports, railway stations shut every two days a week.”

It alleged that the prohibition on civilian traffic on the highway will have a “disastrous impact” on the tourism industry and it was a “collective punishment” for the people of Kashmir.

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