Media wants 4G Net restored in J&K to fight COVID-19

Plea says effective and speedy Net an indispensable tool against pandemic

A petition has urged the Supreme Court to restore 4G mobile Internet service in Jammu and Kashmir as, it said, doctors, patients and the general public were unable to access the latest information, guidelines, advisories, daily updates and restrictions on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The petition filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals through its president and journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and represented by advocate Shadan Farasat said,“Citizens in Jammu & Kashmir should not be deprived of facilities that are already available to Indians across the country, i.e., effective and speedy Internet, an indispensable tool in the struggle against COVID-19. The restriction in respect of mobile Internet speeds effectively amounts to a targeted rollback of such rights in respects of the residents of Jammu & Kashmir.”

The plea stated that Internet in J&K had been restricted for over seven months following the abrogation of its special status under Article 370 in August 2019. It was illegal to do so.

The petition, which specifically challenged an Internet restricting order issued by the government on March 26, said the right to Internet connectivity had repeatedly been recognised by the Centre as a “basic necessity or an essential service to ensure the right to health”.

Lockdown guidelines

The Centre's 21-day lockdown guidelines on March 24 exempted “telecommunications, Internet services, broadcasting and cable services. IT and IT enabled services only [for essential services] and as far as possible to work from home,” it noted.

There was need for real-time information, which the restricted services running on the outdated 2G speed and largely used to receive and send text messages, could not provide. 4G speed was necessary in various critical fields, from tele-medicine to supply of medical supplies to academics to online video consultations to professions and even commerce and trade in this time of complete lockdown, it pointed out.

Fear among people

The number of Coronavirus cases in J&K had reached 33. Two people had died. “There is genuine fear of a rapid increase and community transmission in the Union Territory,” it stated.

Not restoring 4G in J&K, in line with the rest of the country and in the light of the pandemic on the “vague” ground of national security was a violation of the fundamental rights of life, dignity, free speech and shows non-application of mind. The wireless subscribers of mobile Internet (which is limited to 2G) far outstripped the wireline subscriber base (necessary for fixed line Internet connectivity).

As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s data, Jammu and Kashmir had 1,03,20,749 wireless subscribers on December 30 last. In comparison, the wireline subscriber base (or fixed line Net connectivity) was only 1,32,743.

“Restriction of mobile Internet to 2G fails the proportionality test. It is a disproportionate restriction on fundamental rights, and fails to take into consideration the reality of the current lockdown, imposed on account of the COVID-19 disaster,” the petition said.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 12:44:23 AM |

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