Supreme Court asks Centre to verify Jammu and Kashmir’s response on 4G curb

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to verify if Jammu and Kashmir’s administration has sent any communication to the ministry of home affairs for restoring 4G mobile internet services in the Union territory.

This fact was brought to the top court’s attention by the petitioner, NGO Foundation for Media Professionals, in an affidavit filed in response to the Centre’s reply on the petition.

The three-judge bench, headed by Justice NV Ramana, asked the Centre to verify this fact and posted the case for August 7.

Attorney General KK Venugopal appeared for Centre.

Meanwhile, the J-K administration has also sought time to file a response to petitioner’s affidavit.

The petitioner has alleged contempt of the top court’s May 11 order claiming that the Centre has not reviewed the 4G restrictions as no order has been placed in the public domain.

The Centre had filed an affidavit last week claiming that it was not possible to restore 4G services for the present but left it to the UT administration to decide.

A communications blackout and a lockdown were imposed in J-K in August last year as part of measures to prevent protests against the Centre’s move to divest the region of its special status. Most of the restrictions have since been eased even as the mobile internet remains restricted.

The Centre has throughout claimed that 4G restoration is not feasible as terrorist activities are on the rise. Currently, J-K only has 2G internet service.

The May 11 order was passed after the NGO in April challenged restriction on mobile internet speed to 2G.

The NGO sought restoration of high-speed 4G internet services saying patients, doctors, and the general public were unable to access the latest information, guidelines, advisories and restrictions about Covid-19 pandemic because of the restrictions.

It pointed out slow internet speed makes telemedicine, or online consultation, impossible.

The Supreme Court on May 11 refrained from passing directions to restore 4G services and instead constituted the committee comprising high-level government officers, including the Union home secretary, to take a call on the matter.

The committee was asked to examine the necessity to allow faster internet in certain geographical areas.

The Centre told the court the committee was constituted by virtue of the May 11 order and no separate notification was required. The committee met on May 15 and sought further inputs before taking any decision.

It again met on June 10 and decided not to relax the restrictions, the Centre said.