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Thursday, August 06, 2020

Will look into reported statements made on restoration of 4G Internet service in J-K: Centre to SC

The apex court was hearing a plea of the NGO seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretary of J-K for their alleged "wilful disobedience" in complying with the court's May 11 order.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Published: July 28, 2020 2:45:14 pm
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The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it will verify reported statements made by the Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and BJP leader Ram Madhav that 4G Internet service can be restored in the Union Territory, and sought time to file a reply to the rejoinder affidavit filed by an NGO.

A bench of justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai adjourned the hearing for August 7, on a contempt plea filed by an NGO Foundation for Media Professionals.

High speed Internet service in J-K has been suspended since August last year when the Centre had announced revocation of its special status and bifurcation of the state into two UTs — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

The apex court was hearing a plea of the NGO seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretary of J-K for their alleged “wilful disobedience” in complying with the court’s May 11 order.

At the outset, solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the J-K administration, said that it has received a lengthy rejoinder from the petitioner on the counter affidavit filed by the Centre, which said that 4G Internet curbs have been reviewed by the special committee.

Opinion| Liberty and responsibility: SC rulings on internet restrictions in J&K uphold balanced constitutionalism

He said that some time be given to reply to the rejoinder affidavit filed by the petitioner.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the petitioner NGO did not oppose the submission of Mehta, and said that the request is reasonable as the rejoinder was served on Monday evening.

According to him, the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir had recently made a statement that 4G Internet service in the valley can be restored and similar statement was also made by BJP leader Madhav.

Ahmadi said that he requests that these statements be also looked into.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the said statements need to be verified.

The bench said then it will list the matter on August 5.

Mehta intervened, and said, that it would be better to have the hearing on another date as August 5 is the date of imposition of Internet curbs.

The bench accepted the request of the Solicitor General and changed the date of hearing to August 7.

On July 16, the Centre and J-K administration had told the top court that a special committee has been set up as per the court’s directive to consider the issue of restoration of 4G Internet services in the Union Territory.

Venugopal, while claiming that incidents of terrorism are on the rise there, had told the court that no contempt was made out against the authorities as they have complied with the directives of the apex court.

On May 11, the top court had ordered setting up of a “special committee” headed by the Union Home Secretary to consider pleas for restoration of 4G internet services in J-K, saying national security and human rights need to be balanced in view of the fact that the UT has been “plagued with militancy”.

The contempt plea filed by the NGO has alleged that authorities concerned have not yet constituted the special committee in line with the top court’s order.

It has also urged the apex court to summon the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretary of UT of Jammu and Kashmir to explain their position with respect to the alleged non-compliance of the court’s directions.

The plea said that the Jammu and Kashmir administration had on May 27 passed an order continuing the restriction on mobile Internet speeds to 2G in all districts throughout the UT without any restriction by time or region.

Besides the contempt plea, the petitioner has also filed an application seeking directions to the authorities to notify the constitution of the special committee within three working days.

The application has sought an interim direction to the authority to restore 4G mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, pending disposal of the plea and also the decision by the special committee.

The court had earlier taken note of the submissions of the Centre that continuous infiltration, foreign influence, violent extremism and issues of national integrity are prevalent in J-K.

The apex court’s May 11 order had come on the pleas filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals and others seeking restoration of 4G services in the UT.

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