Parliament proceedings | No plan to amend Constitution to include Net access as fundamental right, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Minister for Communications justifies imposition of Internet blockade in Jammu and Kashmir

Minister for Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday justified the imposition of Internet blockade in Jammu and Kashmir by stating that national security trumped over the right to use the Internet and the blockade would be reviewed periodically based on the law and order situation in the region.

Mr. Prasad, who was answering a question in the Rajya Sabha, clarified that the government had no plans to amend the Constitution to include access to the Internet as a fundamental right.

On January 10, the Supreme Court, in its 130-page judgment, stated the government should “forthwith” review its orders suspending the Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir. It declared that the freedoms of speech, expression and conducting business on the Internet are fundamental rights integral to Article 19 of the Constitution and subject to reasonable restrictions.

Reiterating this point, Mr. Prasad said the misconception that the right to access the Internet was a fundamental right should be cleared.

“While the right of use of the Internet is important, the security of the country is equally important. Law and order is a State subject. Can we deny that the Internet, a fine creation of the human mind, is not being abused by terrorists, by agent provocateurs, by giving fake news, demanding other kinds of exhortation for communal violence?” Mr. Prasad argued. No one can deny the abuse of the Internet for spreading violence and terrorism, and Pakistan had been doing it in Kashmir and ISIS prospered because of the Internet, he noted.

Mr. Prasad emphasised that the Constitution, which provided rights, also laid equal stress on their regulation. “Use the Internet but you cannot create violence... and weaken unity, integrity, and security of the nation”, he said.

Whether it was a BJP government or a non-BJP government, the Internet had been restricted on several times on account of its abuse. The Supreme Court had said the suspension of the Internet should be periodically reviewed. A committee at the Centre, comprising the Home Secretary, the Law Secretary and the IT Secretary, made periodical reviews, while committees did the job in the States. A decision on discontinuing the blockade would be taken by the Jammu and Kashmir administration.

The government recently allowed partial Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad slammed the partial rollover of Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was done only on paper. Even text messages weren’t going through, he alleged.

Congress member Amee Yagnik asked Mr. Prasad to clarify on whether the government had a specific policy detailing the conditions under which Internet could be denied to citizens. The Minister was not able to give a specific reply. He said there were temporary suspension of Internet rules, which was under the consideration of the Supreme Court. “What the Supreme Court has said is that you must have more frequent periodical review, which we will be doing,” he added.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:22:43 AM |

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