Right to access Internet not a fundamental right, J&K tells SC

April 30, 2020 04:16 am | Updated 04:16 am IST - New Delhi

Right to access the Internet is not a fundamental right. Free speech and expression, including the fundamental right to trade, business and occupation over the Internet, can be curtailed by the State in general public interest, the Jammu and Kashmir government has told the Supreme Court.

The government was replying to a petition filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals in the apex court for restoration of 4G Internet speed to help the Union Territory to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

The affidavit filed by the Principal Secretary, Home Department, said a restriction like the reduction of Internet speed was “not only least restrictive but also most appropriate and has reasonable nexus with object/purpose sought to be achieved by the order, i.e. protecting the sovereignty, integrity, security of State.”

The government said Jammu and Kashmir, while fighting the war against COVID-19, is also fighting a “continuous war” against terrorists — aided, abetted and encouraged from across the border.

Also read: J&K: Anti-terror mechanism used to track people escaping corona quarantine

“Post August 2019 constitutional developments, Pakistan handlers, either directly or indirectly, have increased activity on social media intending to and aiming at disturbance of peace in the region, inciting violence and abetting terror activities. Many hash-tags are being used by Pakistani handles to glorify Pakistan Army and terror outfits/terrorists,” the government said.

An increase in the Internet speed would lead to swift uploading and posting of provocative videos and other heavy data files. High speed internet services (4G) decrease the time of circulation of various photographs, videos, propaganda audios. The reaction time for law enforcement agencies to stop them from going viral would be less.

Tongue in cheek, the government said the “concept of ‘work from home’ cannot be applicable in all sectors (viz. security forces).”

“But where it is a possibility, efforts are being made towards that end by trying to strike a balance between preventing egregious propagandising and providing an environment conducive to exercise of fundamental rights by denizens of the UT of J&K,” the affidavit said.

It said information that insufficient Internet speed is hampering the ability to deal with medical emergencies in the corona fight is “misconceived”.

“Information about lockdowns, restrictions, designated COVID red zone areas, etc, is given on a regular basis through press briefings and daily bulletins which are shared with the general public through official social media handles of the government and its representatives and are also uploaded on its websites, which can be easily downloaded over 2G Internet,” the affidavit said.

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