Directs for constitution of Special Committee to look into petitions
Committee will be headed by MHA Secretary
Says, balance has to be formed between rights of people and security of state
2g internet services remained suspended for the fifth day in Kashmir
After refraining from passing any positive directions telling the government to restore high speed 4G internet in Kashmir, the Supreme Court of India has asked for a committee to be formed to further examine the petitions, as 2g internet services remained suspended for the fifth day.
The court said that balance has to be formed between the rights of people and security of the state.
“While it might be desirable and convenient to have better internet in the present circumstances, wherein there is a worldwide pandemic and a national lockdown. However, the fact that outside forces are trying to infiltrate the borders and destabilize the integrity of the nation, as well as cause incidents resulting in the death of innocent citizens and security forces every day cannot be ignored,” observed the bench.
The operative portion of the order stated as follows :
‘It may be noted that in the earlier judgment of Anuradha Bhasin, this Court had directed that, under the usual course, every order passed under Rule 2(2) of the Telecom Suspension Rules restricting the internet is to be placed before a Review Committee which provides for adequate procedural and substantive safeguards to ensure that the imposed restrictions are narrowly tailored.
However, we are of the view that since the issues involved affect the State, and the nation, the Review Committee which consists of only State level officers, may not be in a position to satisfactorily address all the issues raised. We, therefore, find it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State, level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir:
a. The Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Secretary), Government of India.
b. The Secretary, Department of Communications, Ministry of Communications, Government of India.
c. The Chief Secretary, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The aforesaid Special Committee shall be headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Secretary), Government of India. Currently, only 2G services are functional in the Union Territory.
The Special Committee is directed to examine the contentions of, and the material placed herein by, the Petitioners as well as the Respondents. The aforesaid Committee must also examine the appropriateness of the alternatives suggested by the Petitioners, regarding limiting the restrictions to those areas where it is necessary and the allowing of faster internet (3G or 4G) on a trial basis over certain geographical areas and advise the Respondent No. 1 regarding the same, in terms of our earlier directions.
The writ petitions are disposed of in the afore-stated terms’.
A bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai had reserved orders on May 4 on the petitions filed by Foundation of Media Professionals, Private Schools Association of J&K and Soayib Qureshi.
Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for Foundation of Media Professionals, submitted that doctors are finding it difficult to function effectively in the absence of 4G speed.
He highlighted that there are 701 cases of COVID-19 & 8 deaths in the region. When the petition was filed there were 33 cases, and the infections have escalated. Doctors need high speed net for accessing latest updates on COVID-19, and for online consultation with patients.
When the bench posed a query regarding the need to account for security concerns raised by the State, Ahmadi replied that the during the times of pandemic, the fundamental right to access health care should also be given importance.
Seeking to rebut the government’s claims that high speed net will lead to terrorism, Ahmadi submitted that most cases of terrorism happened in the region when there was no internet at all.
The State has not shown any nexus between 4G and terrorism.
Senior Advocate Salman Kurshid, appearing for Private Schools Association of J&K, submitted that the speed restrictions have affected online education.
‘Private schools are under government directions to provide education via Video-conferencing. We have obligation under Right to Education Act to provide education’, he submitted.
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