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[Breaking] Supreme Court directs setting up of Committee headed by MHA Secy to look into ban on 4G internet services in Jammu & Kashmir

Debayan Roy

The Supreme Court today directed the setting up of a High Powered Committee to address concerns surrounding the restrictions on 4G internet services in Jammu & Kashmir.

With this direction, the Court disposed of a batch of petitions challenging the imposition of restrictions in the Valley.

This Committee will be headed by the Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and will also comprise the Secretary, Communications and the Chief Secretary of the Jammu & Kashmir administration.

The panel will look into the contentions raised by the petitioners before the Supreme Court.

While passing its order, the Court expressed a need to ensure balance between national security as well as human rights of people in the region.

Special Committee shall be headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Secretary), Government of India. The Special Committee is directed to examine the contentions of, and the material placed herein by, the Petitioners as well as the Respondents. The aforesaid Committee must also examine the appropriateness of the alternatives suggested by the Petitioners, regarding limiting the restrictions to those areas where it is necessary and the allowing of faster internet (3G or 4G) on a trial basis over certain geographical areas

reads the Supreme Court order

The Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai had reserved orders in the pleas for restoration of 4G services in the Valley on May 4.

The three judge bench further noted in it's order that since the issues involved "affect the State, and the nation", "the Review Committee" may not be able to satisfactorily address all issues involved.

"The review committees which consists of only State level officers, may not be in a position to satisfactorily address all the issues raised. We, therefore, find it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State, level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir."

The petitioners had submitted that the slow internet speed in Kashmir, as opposed to 4G speed available in the rest of the country, hampered the "Right to education" and "Right to healthcare" in the region.

During the hearing, the government cited grounds of national security for the move to snap 4G internet in Kashmir.

The Supreme Court was first seized of the matter when NGO Foundation For Media Professionals had filed a PIL through Advocate Shadan Farasat seeking restoration of 4G services in Jammu & Kashmir.

Later, the Private Schools Association of Jammu & Kashmir, an umbrella body of over 2,200 private schools across the region, challenged a series of government orders passed since January 18, 2020, restricting internet speed in the newly created union territory. This plea was filed through Advocate Charu Ambwani.

Another plea by Advocate Soayib Qureshi arguing as petitioner-in-person stated that if security is an issue, then social media sites can be restricted.

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