No relaxation in J&K 4G curbs yet, Centre tells SC
A special committee constituted as per the Supreme Court’s May 11 order to review restrictions on high-speed mobile internet in Jammu & Kashmir has decided against any relaxations for the time being, the Centre has told the apex court.
In an affidavit on July 21, the Union home ministry said the committee on June 10 considered all aspects of the matter, including terror incidents, before deciding to continue the restrictions on 4G mobile internet. The committee will review the situation again in two months, it added.
“A thorough and comprehensive consideration of all facets of the matter including [the] recent occurrence of terrorism-related incidents in the region was carried out [by the committee]. Ultimately, based on a wide-ranging assessment of the prevailing situation in this sensitive region, the committee arrived at a decision that no further relaxation on restrictions on internet services, including 4G services, could be carried out at present,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit was filed in response to a plea from NGO Foundation of Media Professionals for initiation of contempt of court proceedings against the Centre and Jammu & Kashmir on the grounds that no action was taken to comply with the May 11 order.
The May 11 order was passed after the NGO in April challenged restriction on mobile internet speed to 2G. The NGO sought restoration of high-speed 4G internet services saying patients, doctors, and the general public were unable to access the latest information, guidelines, advisories and restrictions about Covid-19 pandemic because of the restrictions. It pointed out slow internet speed makes telemedicine, or online consultation, impossible.
The Supreme Court on May 11 refrained from passing directions to restore 4G services and instead constituted the committee comprising high-level government officers, including Union home secretary, to take a call on the matter. The committee was asked to examine the necessity to allow faster internet in certain geographical areas.
The NGO in June filed the contempt petition saying there was no information available in the public domain whether the constitution of the committee was notified and whether it has conducted any meetings or passed any orders.
The Centre told the court the committee was constituted by virtue of the May 11 order and no separate notification was required. The committee met on May 15 and sought further inputs before taking any decision. It again met on June 10 and decided not to relax the restrictions, the Centre said. “In view of the above, the contempt petition is misconceived and without any merit and is liable to be rejected.”
A communications blackout and a lockdown were imposed in J&K in August last year as part of measures to prevent protests against the Centre’s move to divest the region of its special status. Most of the restrictions have since been eased even as the mobile internet remains restricted.