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Supreme Court of India. (Photo: Mint)
Supreme Court of India. (Photo: Mint)

SC refuses restoration of 4G services in J&K; panel to look into grievance

  • Nearly 2,200 schools in the UT cannot hold classes, with the future of 27 lakh students at stake, due to lack of 4G services
  • The bench observed that national security and human rights need to be balanced, but said it understands concerns raised

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to restore 4G services in Jammu & Kashmir but ordered setting up of a high-powered committee, headed by Union home secretary, to look into the contentions raised by petitioners.

The committee will comprise secretary of ministry of communications and chief secretary Jammu and Kashmir. It has been directed to examine the relief sought by journalists, doctors and lawyers from Jammu and Kashmir and explore alternative mechanism to resolve problems arising out of slow internet speed in the union territory amid a lockdown to curb the spread of covid-19.

The apex court bench headed by Justice NV Ramana, and comprising Justices BR Gavai and Subhash Reddy, held that the committee shall not pass a general order restricting internet speed across the UT, instead it will assess the situation district-wise and decide on lifting restrictions.

The bench observed that national security and human rights need to be balanced, saying that it understands the crisis the UT is facing amid the lockdown.

The petitions have argued that 4G speed was essential for healthcare, education and trade/business in the Union territory during the pandemic.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing one of the petitioners, had earlier argued that allowing 4G services would provide access to medical fraternity doctor and help save lives. The plea had claimed that doctors and patients were unable to access latest information, advisories, and guidelines.

Ahmadi had also said that students all over the country have been taking online classes, but those in Jammu and Kashmir remain at a disadvantage due to the lack of 4G services.

Nearly 2,200 schools in the region cannot hold classes, with the future of 27 lakh students at stake, the plea had said.

Representing the Centre, attorney general KK Venugopal had opposed restoration of the services and said, "It's a question of national security."

He had cited an incident where 500 people showed up at the funeral of a militant during the lockdown.

The court while passing directions today referred to the Anuradha Bhasin case, and held that adequate procedural safeguards need to be ensured while allowing full internet speed in the valley.

In August last year, all modes of communications were suspended when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status, granted under Article 370. Eventually, services were partially restored, with internet speed restricted to 2G.

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