Jammu & Kashmir

Internet curbs in JK: High Court directs Home Secretary to appear before it tomorrow

Srinagar: A division bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar, on Wednesday directed the Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra to appear before it through video conferencing on Thursday.

Faced with difficulties in conducting online hearings due to curbs on high speed Internet, HC has directed Kabra to apprise it about the impact of the restrictions on e-connectivity of courts, said a report by a Delhi based newspaper Indian Express.

Expressing concern over urgent issues involving the rights of residents of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh, the bench pointed out that virtual hearings through video conferencing has been necessitated because of strict enforcement of lock down due to the sharp rise in coronavirus cases in large parts of the Kashmir province.

“However, we find that despite best efforts on the part of our IT experts, it has been impossible today to have even a bare semblance of a hearing,” the bench observed, adding “we have struggled to have virtual/or audio connectivity with the amicus curiae and the several counsels appearing before us… Even the learned Advocate General has expressed grave difficulty in joining the hearing,” the report quoted the bench as saying.

Pointing out that “access to justice is a fundamental right and cannot be impeded”, the bench said “it has to be ensured to every citizen and courts are required to remain accessible,” the report added.

The report further added that bench referred to a Supreme Court order dated May 11, 2020 in which the apex court, in a writ petition Foundation for Media Professionals vs Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and another, had ordered setting up a high powered committee led by Union Home Secretary to undertake a review of connectivity restrictions imposed by the authorities on high speed Internet.

Keeping in view the difficulties, HC had taken suo motto cognizance of the situation faced by people during the Covid-19 lock down and appointed Monika Kohli advocate as amicus curiae in the case.

Earlier in April, after the court was informed that non-availability of high speed Internet is hampering studies of children during the lock down, it had sought a status report on restoration of 4G Internet facility.

Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2029, when the government of India abrogated Article 370, and divided the erstwhile state into two union territories.

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