NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court of India has refused to restore 4G mobile internet in Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
As per media reports, the apex court has asked the Central Government as well as the UT administration to form a committee of Secretaries from MHA and J&K UT to take a call on the issue “as per ground security situation.”
The development comes as the SC was today scheduled to pronounce its verdict on petitions seeking restoration of 4G mobile Internet in Jammu and Kashmir amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The petitions had argued that 4G speed was essential for healthcare, education and trade/business in the Union Territory during the pandemic.
A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana had recently reserved its judgment in the case. The court had agreed that 4G was faster than 2G Internet. However, “a balance would have to be struck between healthcare in the time of the pandemic and national security concerns in Jammu and Kashmir.”
On the last day of the hearing in the case, the petitioners led by Forum of Media Professionals, represented by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi and advocate Shadan Farasat, had even argued that the ‘Aarogya Setu’ App, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had encouraged the public to download to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, could not be downloaded in J&K on 2G speed.
The petitioners had countered the official narrative in court that 4G speed facilitated terrorism, saying “there is no rational relation between the legitimate State goal [curbing terrorism] and the method used [restricting access to the Internet]”. Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had referred to the encounter in northern Kashmir’s Handwara which killed several Army personnel.
Mr. Ahmadi had argued that access to information through the Internet was protected free speech under the Constitution. The burden would be on the government to establish that curtailing access to the Internet bears a rational relationship with its goal to curb terror.
With no immediate relief by the Supreme Court, the people especially medics, businessmen and students have suffered a setback even as mobile internet service continued to remain suspended across Kashmir for sixth consecutive day, today, since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Riyaz Naikoo.
Pertinently, the mobile phone voice calling services too have not been restored in Pulwama and Shopian districts, causing huge inconvenience to people amid rising COVID-19 cases.