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J&K Govt Tells SC: Internet Curtailed Due To Misuse Aimed At Disturbing Public Peace

The Jammu and Kashmir Government has told the Supreme Court that the right to access the internet is not a fundamental right and can be curtailed in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, public order or incitement to an offence.

The Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department, of the Union Territory of J&K in his reply to the restrictions imposed on internet speed in the valley has further submitted that “likewise, the right to carry on any trade or business can be restricted in the interest of general public under Article 19(6) of our Constitution, which, it is submitted would include public order, public health, public security and objects mentioned in the Directive Principles of State Policy.

The reply has been filed against a batch of petitions praying for restoration of internet speed in mobile data services to 4G in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The main petitioner is Foundation for Media Professionals challenging the UT’s order of March 26 which restricted the internet speed in the valley to 2G only.

The government has further informed the Court that there has been an increased activity on Social media intending to disturb public peace in the valley after declaration of Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory.

“Many hash-tags are being used by Pakistani handles to glorify Pakistan Army and terror outfits/terrorists and portray them as “fighters” for Kashmir’s “struggle”. Shadow handles, believed to have been “inspired” by/or at the behest of Pakistan Army try to allure people from Kashmir and living outside the country, to organize violent protests and rallies at their respective places and also participate in social media campaigns to further their anti- India propaganda.”

Moreover, it has been submitted that the increase in internet speed is  apprehended to lead to swift uploading and posting of provocative videos and other heavy data files.

The government in order to support its case has highlighted an incident when around 500 villagers gathered to attend funeral of a terrorist a few days back, defying the lock-down where there was circulation of photographs of terrorists of prohibited terrorist organizations on social media networking sites to provoke and mislead the youth and cause disaffection against the country.

It has further been submitted that the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India has observed that “the internet could be used to propagate terrorism thereby challenging the sovereignty and integrity of India and that modern terrorism relies heavily on the internet.”

Submitting that the Union Territory administration is taking all possible steps to ensure that minimum inconvenience is caused to citizens while keeping the vital issues of national security and internal security as a paramount consideration, the government informed the Court that in respect of Mobile data services, the internet is available at 2G speed. The post- paid sim card holders have been given access to the internet. However, in respect of pre-paid sim cards, such access is available only, after verification as per the norms applicable for post-paid connections, anywhere in the country. The Fixed-line Internet connectivity with Mac-binding, is available without any speed related restrictions.

-India Legal Bureau

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