With the Supreme Court instructing a Special Committee to look into demands for restoration of 4G service in J&K in view of the lockdown, the ball is back in the court of the authorities who, to begin with, were behind the imposition of these very restrictions.
The high-level committee will be headed by the Union Home Secretary who, incidentally, signed the March 24 order of the Union Home Ministry under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 — one of the two orders challenged before the Supreme Court and the MHA, through its Secretary, was Respondent 2 in the writ petition filed by Foundation for Media Professionals.
That order directed the Ministries and Departments at the Centre, State, and Union Territory level to take effective measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the country, and contained guidelines for the lockdown of the country,
The second order to be challenged was issued on March 26 by the Jammu and Kashmir government, restricting Internet access to only 2G speed in the Union Territory. It was signed by Principal Secretary Shaleen Kabra.
The J&K Chief Secretary, who was Respondent 1 in the writ petition, will also be on the Special Committee along with Secretary, Department of Communication.
In its ruling, the SC found it “appropriate to constitute a Special Committee” to examine the “contentions ofand the material placed herein by, the Petitioners as well as the Respondents”.
“Whether the right to a well-functioning and effective internet is an essential service and a basic necessity, that can be restricted, in times of an epidemic (such as COVID-19) and a nation-wide lockdown that has put a complete halt to the movement of people” was one of the challenges before the court.
The petitioners had raised nine separate issues that the lowering of Internet speed restricted fundamental rights.
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