Friday, February 3, 2023

Application filed in SC for the hardship faced by J&K people due to internet ban

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The Foundation of Media Professionals has filed an application in SC to bring on record the evidence of the hardships faced due to restriction on speed of internet in Jammu and Kashmir, in the PIL filed by it seeking restoration of 4G internet services in the State.

The application states that the individual accounts of such hardships faced by people in the state owing to the restriction on internet’s speed including, doctors, teachers, students, etc.

The Jammu and Kashmir Home Department issued a fresh order on Wednesday extending the existing restrictions on internet speed till April 27, on the grounds that the restriction of internet speed to 2G has not caused any obstruction in COVID-19 control measures, but the incidents of misuse of social media for circulation of fake news, provocative content have however reduced.

This order has come after the Supreme Court in previous week had issued notice to the Jammu and Kashmir administration on plea filed against order issued by J&K administration on March 26 restricting internet speed in mobile data to 2G. The plea was filed for restoration of 4G connectivity, and the Court had asked the reply to be filed within a week.

The case was heard by the division bench comprising of Justice NV Ramana, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice BR Gavai, who heard the plea filed by Adv Shadan Farasat to restore 4G speed mobile internet services on behalf of an NGO Foundation for Media Professionals.

Senior Counsel Hufeza Ahmadi in his submissions said that in view of the lockdown, it is extremely necessary to enhance technology and connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir. The virtual classes of students can only be done through enhancement of technology.

The petition had been filed as public interest litigation by a NGO, which has challenged the government order restricting internet speed in mobile data services to 2G only, contending that such restriction was in violation of Articles 14, 19, 21 and 21A of the Constitution of India. Another order was passed by the Jammu and Kashmir administration on April 3rd retaining these restrictions on mobile internet till April 15th 2020.

The petitioner in his petition has urged the Court that during this period of health crisis, the government is under an obligation to ensure access to the “digital infrastructure” that is required to make the Right to Health of citizens, an effective reality. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir are unable to take benefit of the initiatives like the Ministry of Health’s COVID19 dashboard and MyGovIndia’s, WhatsApp, chatbot which responds to queries and counters the Covid myths with text, infographics and videos. They cannot access potentially life saving information from these services , which is violative of their right to equality, right to freedom and right to life.

The restoration of the 4G service, according to the petitioner is also necessary to enable the residents to access the repository of information on internet, and the patients, doctors, and the general public of Jammu and Kashmir to access the latest information, guidelines, advisories, and restrictions about COVID-19 that are being made available and continuously updated online on a daily basis.

Further, the petitioner has also stated that no access to 4G makes it impossible for the residents to follow the government mandated “work from home” policy, especially for businesses in the Information Technology and ITES(IT Enabled Services) sector, and the educational institutions as well. The access to 4G is therefore very crucial to implement the work from home policy being promoted by the government.

-India Legal Bureau

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