A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice NV Ramana reserved its order on a batch of petitions seeking restoration of 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir claiming the 2G service available in the Union Territory is not sufficient for education and business purposes amid the ongoing coronavirus-induced lockdown.
During the hearing, attorney general KK Venugopal appearing for the Central government said that the orders that have been passed specifically stated that restrictions of internet speed are required for national security. Venugopal said that it’s about the protection of the lives of the entirety of the population of Jammu and Kashmir and not just the COVID-19 patients.
“Terrorists are being pushed into the country. Yesterday, there were some tragic events also. These men could easily take videos of the troop movements because they were trusted. The enemy could know the troop movements if they had 4G,” Venugopal told the court.
On the other hand, the petitioners argued that the 2G network that is currently provided is not fast enough for educational and business operations in the Valley. “I’ve repeatedly pointed out why 2G network is not enough for an interactive class,” advocate Hufeza Ahmadi, representing the Foundation for Media Professionals, said. “It is a matter of elementary knowledge that 2G cannot be used for video.”
Ahmadi countered the Centre’s argument that 4G internet will be used by terrorists. “If they can misuse 4G speed they can also misuse 2G speed,” she said. “There has to be a nexus between internet speed and terrorist acts. Terror acts are happening even with a 2G network.” “Most of the terrorist activities happened in J&K during the 1990s when there was no internet,” argued Ahmadi. Ahmadi insisted that at least 4G services can be restored in Kashmir on a trial basis.
Advocate Ahmadi also maintained that all the government orders imposing the internet speed restriction in the valley was violative of the Anuradha Bhasin judgment of January this year as none of the orders imposing internet speed restriction was placed before a review committee and that none of the review committee reports were made public.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the administration of the Union Territory, insisted that the restrictions were in compliance with the law, including the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in its Anuradha Bhasin judgment from January, which had directed the government to review its restrictions on internet in the region.
After hearing rebuttals from the petitioners – who pointed out that there was no evidence of a link between 4G and terrorist attacks, and that the orders of the review committees on the need for the internet restrictions – the bench of Justices NV Ramana, Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai reserved their decision.
These were the same judges who passed the apex court’s January order directing review of internet restrictions in J&K. They have said they will pass orders soon on the request for removal of the 4G curbs.
Image Courtesy: The Hindu