Other States

Respond to plea for 4G restoration in J&K, SC tells govt

A municipal worker sprays disinfectant during nationwide lockdown in Srinagar on April 9, 2020.

A municipal worker sprays disinfectant during nationwide lockdown in Srinagar on April 9, 2020.   | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Doctors, patients and general public not able to access latest information on COVID-19, says petition.

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a response from the government on a petition to restore mobile Internet data services in Jammu and Kashmir to 4G speed, as doctors, patients and the general public are unable to access the latest information, guidelines, advisories, daily updates and restrictions about COVID-19.

A Bench, led by Justice N.V. Ramana, via videoconferencing, issued formal notice to the government and sought a response in a week’s time.

The petition, filed by Foundation for Media Professionals through its president and journalist Paranjoy Guna Thakurta and represented by advocate Shadan Farasat, said the “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 plea said, “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.”

It pointed out that Internet in J&K had been restricted for over seven months following the abrogation of the special status of the Kashmiri people under Article 370 in August 2019. It specifically challenged an Internet restricting government order of March 26.

Also read: Here is a list of State Helpline numbers.

A ‘basic necessity’’

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”.

The lockdown guidelines on March 24 had 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”.

The petition said there was need for real-time information, which the restricted Internet services running on the outdated 2G speed, largely used to receive and send text messages, cannot provide.

It pointed that 4G was necessary in various critical fields, from telemedicine to supply of medical supplies to academics to online video consultations of professions and even commerce and trade in this time of complete lockdown.

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.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 1:55:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/respond-to-plea-for-4g-restoration-in-jk-sc-tells-govt/article31297029.ece

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