Supreme Court Tells Government Panel To Look Into Internet Issues In Kashmir
Soldiers guard at the Army base camp during a militants attack in Baramulla district of north Kashmir (Photo: PTI)

Supreme Court Tells Government Panel To Look Into Internet Issues In Kashmir

The Supreme Court directed a three-member committee to look into the pleas seeking lifting of communication restrictions, including restoration of internet services, in Kashmir amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The panel will be headed by the Union home secretary and will comprise telecom secretary and the chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, the top court said.

Apart from looking into the contentions of the petitioners, the committee “must examine the appropriateness of the alternatives suggested by the petitioners, regarding limiting the restrictions to those areas where it is necessary and the allowing of faster internet (3G or 4G) on a trial basis over certain geographical areas,” the three judge bench, comprising Justice NV Ramanna, Justice BR Gavai and Justice R Subhash Reddy, said in its judgment.

This is a case, according to the bench, where there is a need to balance the national security concerns with the right of the citizens. The court is “cognizant of concerns relating to the ongoing pandemic and the hardships that may be faced by the citizens”, it said.

The petitions were filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals and Private Schools Association J&K. Besides, lawyer Soayib Qureshi filed a plea in individual capacity.

The petitioners argued that the continued denial of 4G internet services during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic hurts the right to health, education, business and freedom of speech and expression of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.

“These are blanket orders for the entire region, which indicated a non-application of mind and are violative of the court’s directions laid down in the earlier judgment of Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India that laid down the guidelines for imposing such restrictions,” they argued.

The central government, represented by Attorney General KK Venugopal, opposed the pleas, saying these were issues of national security and these decisions must be left to those who are in charge of policymaking.

“In the prevailing circumstances, wherein there is continuing insurgency in the region, the spreading of fake news to incite violence, etc., it would not be possible to provide full internet services to the region,” the attorney general told the Supreme Court.

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