The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned hearing on petitions seeking restoration of 4G Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir in view of the COVID-19 situation with the centre stating that “militancy is still” being reported from the region and that the issue involved question of “national security”.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench of Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai that it is a “very serious issue”. He submitted that when a militant was killed recently, a large number of people came for the funeral and that the militants were being made into martyrs.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the J&K administration said that he will send a consolidated reply to the petitions within a weeks time.
The bench gave the centre and the Union Territory administration time till April 26 to file their affidavits and fixed April 27 to hear the matter next. Appearing for one of the petitioners NGOs Foundation for Media Professionals, Senior Advocate H Ahmadi said non-availability of 4G services is affecting people’s right to health and education.
Internet at 4G speed was needed for those wanting to consult doctors online so that crowding can be avoided in hospitals, he said and pointed out that the courts hearing cases online would be impossible without 4G speed. Also, schools across the country have now shifted to online classes in view of the lockdown to make sure that students don’t lose their lessons, he said and added that lack of the 4G internet puts J&K students at a disadvantage.
The bench asked the AG and SG to state what they wanted to say in their affidavit. Responding to the AG’s submission that it involved question of “national security”, Ahmadi said the restrictions could be limited to the problematic areas and not extended to the whole state.
Advocate Charu Ambwani, appearing for petitioner ‘Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir’ contended that about 2200 schools are unable to hold classes due to lack of 4G internet thereby putting the future of several students at stake.
The foundation contended that restricting access to 4G speed, especially during the COVID-19 situation, amounts to restricting the right of the people, including doctors in J&K to access important daily updates of advisories and guidelines regarding the pandemic. Patients are also prevented from seeking advices through teleconferencing, they said, adding such a restriction is therefore in contravention of the people’s right to health.
It was also impacting children’s right to education as with reduced internet speed, they are unable to access online study material, the plea said. The petition added that at a time when the “work from home” concept is being utilized globally, it has become next to impossible in Jammu and Kashmir, defeating the right to freedom of trade, profession and livelihood.
The SC had in its judgment dated January 10, 2020, said that the freedom of speech and expression, and the freedom of trade and commerce through the internet are fundamental right under the Constitution and as such cannot be curtailed without following the mandate of the Constitution and should meet the test of proportionality.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines