Explore restoration of 4G mobile internet services in J-K: SC tells Centre
The top court was hearing a petition filed by NGO, Foundation for Media Professionals in June seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Central government and J-K for failure to comply with the apex court’s May 11 directions to review restrictions on mobile internet speed in the union territory.Updated: Aug 07, 2020 19:40 IST
The Central government should explore the possibility of restoring 4G mobile internet services in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J-K) in view of the statements by former Lieutenant Governor (LG) of J-K GC Murmu advocating the same, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
The top court was hearing a petition filed by NGO, Foundation for Media Professionals in June seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Central government and J-K for failure to comply with the apex court’s May 11 directions to review restrictions on mobile internet speed in the union territory.
“LG has said that there is no difficulty in restoring 4G. You have to give (an) explanation to that,” Justice R Subhash Reddy, who was part of the three-judge bench hearing the matter, told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared on behalf of J-K.
Mehta pointed out that the LG of J-K has changed and new LG Manoj Sinha has taken over.
“LG is not part of the review committee. In your response, don’t go strictly by whether or not contempt is there. You should also say whether 4G can be restored in areas (where there is no trouble),” Justice Reddy remarked.
The apex court had on May 11 ordered the constitution of a committee comprising high ranking government officials to review restrictions on 4G in the union territory. The committee was to comprise the secretary of ministry of home affairs, secretary of ministry of communications and the chief secretary of J-K. This order was passed in an earlier plea filed in April by the same NGO pointing out that lack of 4G services in the union territory was causing great difficulties to medical health professionals and general population during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NGO then approached the apex court in June filing the present contempt petition claiming there is no information available in the public domain about whether the constitution of the special committee has been notified and whether it has conducted any meetings or passed any orders.
The Centre filed a response to the contempt plea on July 21 stating that the review committee was constituted as per the May 11 directions of the court and it took a decision against resuming 4G services for the time being. The Centre has consistently maintained that restoring 4G will benefit anti-India elements and terrorists who will utilise the same for speedy communication.
Former LG of J-K, GC Murmu told the media on July 24 that restoration of 4G services in J-K will not be a problem and Pakistan will continue with its propaganda even if mobile internet speed is restricted to 2G. The petitioners highlighted Murmu’s statement to augment their case when the matter was heard on July 28.
“We have attached a news report showing the L-G has made a statement that 4G services should be restored. It is also in line with the statements by J-K interlocutor Ram Madhav. I have submitted those media reports,” senior counsel Huzefa Ahmadi, who was appearing for the petitioner, had told the court.
The Centre had then said that it will verify the statement and get back to the court.
When the matter came up for hearing on Friday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for J-K sought time to file a response to the rejoinder affidavit filed by the petitioner. The court allowed the same and adjourned the case for August 11 while making it clear that no further adjournments will be allowed.
The J-K administration had issued an order on March 26 restricting internet speed in mobile data to 2G.
The petitioner had moved the top court against that order claiming that patients, doctors and general public were unable to access latest information, guidelines and advisories about Covid -19 due to restrictions on mobile internet speed. It was also pointed out that slow internet speed also renders telemedicine (diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunication) or online video consultation impossible.
The Supreme Court, in its May 11 judgment, refrained from passing directions to restore 4G mobile internet services in J-K instead constituting the special committee comprising high level government officers to take a call on the same and examine the necessity to allow faster internet in certain geographical areas of the newly formed union territory.