Straight Line News Network
Jammu, April 21: The Supreme Court directed the Centre to file its response on pleas seeking restoration of 4G mobile internet services in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir by April 26, 2020.
In light of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, a PIL was filed by Foundation for Media Professionals which challenged the government order restricting internet speed in mobile data services to 2G only, for being violative of Articles 14, 19, 21, and 21A of the Constitution of India.
As per the report of LiveLaw.in, a bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy & B.R. Gavai directed the Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta & Attorney General KK Venugopal, to file their response on each of the petitions by Sunday. The matter was adjourned to Monday, April 27, 2020.
Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi appeared for the petitioner(s) and stated that on account of not having (4G) internet services (in J&K) – three aspects required attention 1) Health 2) Ailments and 3) Education. She added that one could not consult a doctor with connectivity issues at large. “Can’t have online classes without 4G” stated Ahmadi.
At this juncture, AG pointed out that there is an ongoing issue of militancy in Jammu & Kashmir which cannot be overlooked. In light of this Ahmadi contended that regarding the Attorney General’s issue of national security in Jammu & Kashmir, in areas where there is such a concern, connectivity could be restricted. “However, the internet restrictions should not be extended to entire state”, she added.
The bench also took up the plea filed by the Private Schools Association of Jammu & Kashmir. Advocate Charu Ambwani & Soayib Quereshi appeared on behalf of petitioner(s). Another petition seeking similar prayer wherein Advocate Soayib Quereshi was the petitioner-in-person was also taken up. Advocate Charu Ambwani submitted that more than 27 lakh students are unable to have access to education.
On April 9, 2020, notice was issued on the petition filed by Foundation of Media Professionals to the standing counsel of Jammu & Kashmir via email, returnable within a week.
The Central government had imposed a complete communications blackout in the erstwhile state of J&K in August 2019, right after abrogation of Article 370. Five months later in January 2020, on the basis of a Supreme Court order which found Internet shutdown illegal, the services were partially restored, only at 2G speed for mobile users. The Supreme Court had observed that indefinite suspension of internet is not permissible and restrictions on internet have to follow the principles of proportionality under Article 19(2).
Ever since, the Home Department of Jammu and Kashmir kept extending 2G services in Jammu and Kashmir on one pretext or the other for a week or more. On 15th April, Jammu and Kashmir Home Department issued a fresh order extending the existing restrictions on internet speed till April 27.
The order referred to reports of law enforcement agencies regarding usage of social media for circulation of photographs of terrorists and for mobilizing crowds and also to the instance of over 500 villagers gathering to attend the funeral of a slain terrorist, defying lockdown orders.