A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court by the Private Schools Association, Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that order of restriction of 4G data is the infringement of the Right to Education of people in the State. The Government orders challenged are the orders dated 18th Jan 2020, 24th Jan 2020, 26th Jan 2020 and 3rd April 2020 that imposed restrictions on the speed of the Internet connectivity.
The Apex Court had on Thursday heard a petition on the same issue of restriction of internet in Jammu and Kashmir filed by an NGO Foundation for Media Professionals, and a three-judge Bench comprising of Justice NV Ramana, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice BR Gavai had issued notice to the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The petitioners had contended that in view of the lockdown, its extremely necessary to enhance technology and connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir, the virtual classes of students can only be done through enhancement of technology, and such restriction on internet is violative of their rights under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
In the present petition which has been filed through advocates Soayib Qureshi and Charu Ambwani , the petitioner is an association of more than 2,200 schools across Jammu and Kashmir.
The petition relates the lack of internet connectivity in the state to the right to education, specially considering the current situation of a pandemic outbreak where people have to depend on virtual classes due to the lockdown. It states that the students of Jammu and Kashmir are facing a serious due to non-availability of high speed internet connection, and their Right to Education is one of the most important fundamental rights as given by the Indian Constitution. Internet is a medium of gaining, obtaining and dissemination of knowledge thereby empowering the Right to education even more and is extremely crucial during the current times of lockdown where serious restrictions have been placed on the movement of people.
According to the petitioner, data connectivity at the speed of 2G and not 4G, is not sufficient to circulate information, and restrictions on availability of good internet speed is unreasonable, unrequired, totally unjustified, and without any material basis.
The Petition, with reference to the Government’s statement in its orders that restriction has not impacted online classes, that such a submission is wrong and has no material basis. The Education sector in the state has therefore, been pushed to the dark ages by such a restriction by the Government, impacting both online education and business activities.
The petitioner has contended that these restrictions infringe the Constitutional rights of the people of the State along with the right of the members of the Petitioner Association to carry on its business and professional activities in the present times, as it has effect on imparting of online education, research activities carried on by professionals, entertainment and communication for the general public.
The petitioner has also made note of the decision of Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India where the Right to internet was held to be part of the fundamental rights, and the restriction on internet speed in this case amounts to suspending internet for eternity and violation of the right to internet as 2G is an outdated technology.
The Apex Court in the case of Anuradha Bhasin, while dealing with the question of lockown in the state of Jammu and Kashmir stated that the importance of internet cannot be ignored, and wide range of circulation of information is important. Expression through internet has gained contemporary relevance. The right to freedom of speech and expression was thus held to be a part of Article 19(1) under the Constitution, and any order for suspension of such internet should be subject to judicial review.
-India Legal Bureau