Plea challenges social media ban in J&K

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued notice to the State government on a plea challenging the ban on social networking sites that argues that the archaic Indian Telegraphs Act, 1885, “cannot be used for the exercise of maintaining the public order” in J&K.

Hearing two separate petitions filed by Raja Faisal Malik and Bilal Ahmad Bhat, Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar has issued a notice to the government to file objections by May 16.

Lawyer Pirzada Salih, one of the counsels, told The Hindu that the sub-clause 2 of Section 5 of the Indian Telegraphs Act in the past was invoked “only to monitor and regulate the messages, which could be in the form of voice, video, picture or text”.

Phone tapping

“However, the Telegraph Act in the case of banning of the social media sites is being used to ban the telegraph (a service) itself and not any objectionable message. The Act may have been invoked to tap phones for security reasons but never to stop the phone services itself,” argues Mr. Salih.

Mr. Salih submitted before the court that “public order cannot be regulated by the provisions of the Act and in any such eventuality would amount to excessive delegation”.

He said the provisions of the Act “cannot be executed while employing the provisions of the Central legislation when public safety falls within the domain of State Legislature.”

Twenty-two social media sites offering services of instant message were banned on April 24 in the Kashmir Valley by invoking the colonial era Act, legislated by British after the mutiny of 1857.

“Curtailment of access to internet by the State is tantamount to infringement of freedom of speech and expression as well as basic human right,” said Mr. Salih.