SC doesn't order to restore 4G Internet services in J&K
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to pass an order on the restoration of 4G services in Jammu and Kashmir, asking a special committee to look into the concerns of various petitioners. The special committee will be formed by the Centre, and will be headed by Secretary of Union Home Ministry, the court said. Currently, only 2G services are available in the Union Territory.
Internet services were suspended in Jammu and Kashmir last August, before the abrogation of Article 370, that granted special status to the militancy-infested state. The region was divided into two UTs— Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Communication modes were snapped to curtail a violent fallout of the historic move. With time, the J&K administration extended some relaxations but 4G Internet remained suspended.
A bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy, and BR Gavai passed Monday's order but didn't give any reprieve to the citizens. "This court has to ensure national security and human rights are balanced. We do recognize that UT has plunged into a crisis. At the same time court is cognizant to the concerns related to ongoing pandemic and hardship," said Justice Ramana.
Notably, the petitioners told the court that in the absence of high-speed Internet, schools weren't able to conduct video-conferencing. Further, owing to coronavirus pandemic, healthcare facilities were also being jeopardized. They claimed terrorism flourished in the 1990s without 4G. Contesting this, Attorney General KK Venugopal said, "This is about the protection of the lives of the entirety of the population of Jammu and Kashmir."
Venugopal also referenced to Handwara incident where several army men were killed in action after an intense encounter. Just last week, the government suspended Internet services when Riyaz Naikoo, a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander in the Valley, was killed. The government was mulling restoring mobile services on Friday night, but a high-level committee suggested to continue the suspension till May 11, Ramzan's 17th day.
The 17th day of Ramzan coincides with Badr, a decisive battle in Islamic history when the first hundreds of believers had attacked Arabia and won. Intel inputs suggest terrorist outfits might launch an attack on military installations on Badr.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Union Territory, argued that relaxations were given gradually. Initially, landline facilities were restored, followed by 2G services, he reminded. In January, when the top court heard pleas challenging the longest Internet shutdown in the world, it underscored that services can't be suspended for long as it would qualify as the annihilation of freedom of speech.