4G for two J&K districts after I-Day on trial basis
More than a year after an internet blackout was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir, two districts will get 4G services after Independence Day, albeit on a trial basis, the Centre told Supreme Court on Tuesday. One district each from Jammu and Kashmir division will be selected and the results will be judged after two months. The ban will continue in areas adjoining LoC.
High-speed internet services were blocked in J&K last August to ensure that the abrogation of Article 370 doesn't take a violent turn. Cornered over the ban in the apex court multiple times, the NDA always maintained that services will be restored when the situation acquiesces. By removing the contentious article, the Centre obliterated J&K's special status and split it into two Union Territories.
The restoration of high-speed internet has been a long-standing demand of residents and it gained attention once again after an NGO Foundation for Media Professionals, sought criminal contempt proceedings against Centre and J&K administration for failing to abide by SC's May 11 order, which directed to review the restrictions. The NGO implored Centre for services saying J&K's COVID-19 battle was getting affected.
In the last hearing, the top court asked the Centre to consider the demand. Today, the Centre told the bench that the committee formed to decide on the restoration of services opined that the situation was yet not conducive. Deputy Secretary (Legal and Constitution in Ministry of Home Affairs) Dharmendra Kumar submitted an affidavit in this regard, disclosing recommendations and findings of the committee.
Saying that security threat continues to be high, the affidavit added, "It (the committee) was also of the view that internet speed related restrictions are not posing any hindrance to COVID control measures, access to education programs or carrying out business activities."
However, the committee suggested making 4G internet available on a trial basis, the affidavit added. "The relaxation from 2G to 4G should be limited for the present to one district each in Jammu and Kashmir divisions so that both regions of UT are covered. The areas should have a low intensity of terrorist activities and minimal spillover effects on neighboring areas," the committee's recommendations read.
On hearing the Centre's suggestion, the petitioner's lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi called for keeping the petition pending, saying it should be subject to the situation on the ground. To this, the bench replied, "We have to see the other aspects of the situation there. We hope that the situation will improve. We don't believe there is any need to keep the contempt matter pending."