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Thursday, September 24, 2020

House panel drops J&K Internet, Tharoor tells Speaker it’s not in court

Sources said although J&K has been dropped from the revised agenda for the September 2 meeting of the committee, the matter will be discussed by panel members.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: August 30, 2020 7:22:12 am
Tharoor chairs standing committee on IT. (File Photo)

The debate over the Speaker’s letter urging parliamentary panels not to discuss matters pending in courts is far from over. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who chairs the parliamentary standing committee on information technology, has written to Speaker Om Birla, saying the panel can take up the issue of telecom and Internet connections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources said although J&K has been dropped from the revised agenda for the September 2 meeting of the committee, the matter will be discussed by panel members.

Following the Speaker’s August 25 letter asking heads of all committees to avoid discussions on sub judice matters at their meetings, Tharoor is learnt to have sent him a reply, citing rules.

Read| BJP MP asks Shashi Tharoor to cancel IT panel meeting on 4G in J&K

Sources said Tharoor has pointed out that the issue of Internet connection is no longer pending in the court.

On May 11, the Supreme Court, while declining pleas for restoration of 4G Internet services in J&K, ordered the constitution of a Special Committee to “immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of” limiting mobile Internet to 2G speed in the region. It directed that the committee “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”.

On August 16, 4G Internet service was restored on a trial basis in Ganderbal (Kashmir) and Udhampur (Jammu) in the Union Territory.

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Tharoor, it is learnt, said the matter is not sub judice now. Sources said pressure from BJP MP Nishikant Dubey forced Tharoor to modify the agenda, dropping J&K from the list of states from where officials are to be called to provide evidence.

Currently, the agenda says: “To take evidence of the representatives of the DoT, MHA and the representatives of Bihar and Delhi on the subject of suspension of telecom services, Internet and its impact.”

But sources said the committee will take evidence on the issue of telecom and Internet services in J&K from officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Explained| How will restoration of 4G internet services in J&K on trial basis work?

On Saturday, The Indian Express reported that there have been a number of instances in the past of parliamentary committees taking up matters pending in courts – alleged irregularities in 2G spectrum, coal block allocation and the AgustaWestland helicopter deal among the several that were discussed.

The ruling BJP, however, says the rule of a matter sub judice is implied when it is about to be adjudicated. “Parliament is supreme, and it can make law even after the judgment. But when the adjudication is going on, an interference by a parliamentary committee could go against parliamentary procedures and practices,” senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav told The Sunday Express.

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