Attorney General K.K. Venugopal informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that 4G Internet access will be opened up after Independence Day in one district in each of Jammu and Kashmir’s divisions.
The Centre, however, said a blanket removal of the 4G ban was not possible now, considering the “overall situation” and “threat perception” to national, border and local security.
Appearing before a three-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana, Mr. Venugopal read out from an additional affidavit that the “carefully calibrated” opening up of 4G access would be on a trial basis. The access will be limited to specified areas that are not adjacent to the international border and have seen “low intensity terrorist activities”. Access will be strictly monitored to protect national, border and local security.
The decision is based on the recommendations made by a Supreme Court-constituted special committee , headed by Union Home Secretary A.K. Bhalla, which met on August 10. The panel will review the situation every week and meet again after two months.
The Centre, in its affidavit, said the restrictions on 4G neither hampered COVID-19 preventions and treatment nor affected business in the Valley. Landline and 2G services were still available there.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, assisted by advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for Foundation for Media Professionals, said the opening up of 4G in select areas was a “good step forward”.
The Foundation had filed a contempt petition against Mr. Bhalla and the J&K authorities for not following a May 11 judgment of the court, which required the committee to meet weekly to review the 4G ban and publish their orders in the public domain.
But Mr. Venugopal submitted that “every single order of the review of the 4G ban by the special committee in J&K has been uploaded on the website. But we surely cannot put out the deliberations made [minutes of the meetings] in the public domain”.
The court said the government’s move was a “good step forward” and disposed the contempt petition.
“There is no need to keep the contempt pending any more,” Justices R. Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai, also on the Bench, agreed.
In the last hearing , the court asked the Centre to explain whether 4G network could be restored in select areas of Jammu and Kashmir where there was no trouble, saying even former Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor G.C. Murmu had recommended it while in office.