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After the Supreme Court’s directive that the Government review the internet restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, a notification has been issued intimating that limited internet services will be extended from January 15 (today) onwards in Jammu and Kashmir.
In particular, the Internet Service Providers have been directed to provide broadband facilities to allow internet access to white listed sites to institutions dealing with essential services, hospitals, banks etc. and Government offices, as well as to facilitate tourism and travel.
On mobile, 2G mobile connectivity is being allowed for internet access to white listed sites, in the districts of Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and Reasi. In all other districts, internet will remain suspended until further orders.
Notably, the Government has also informed that there will be complete restriction on social media access for the time being.
The full list of instructions issued by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir in its notification dated January 14, 2020, is as follows:
Existing access/communication facilities shall continue.
On date, the Government notification informs that there are limited internet facilities set up including a fixed broadband facility in the Jammu Division.
Further, in the Kashmir Division, it is informed that there are 844 e-terminals for the general public and 69 special counters for tourists, apart from separate terminals for filing GST returns, examination application forms. A number of Government departments including those related to essential services and Government hospitals also have access to internet, the notification further states.
Broadband facilities for access to white-listed sites
Internet Service Providers (ISP - BSNL/private service providers) to provide broadband facility (with Mac -binding) to all Institutions dealing with essential services, Hospitals, Banks, etc. as also to Government offices, and in order to facilitate tourism to hotels and tour/travel establishments.
The ISPs providing internet access are required to first install necessary firewalls and white-list sites that would enable access to Government websites and websites dealing with essential services, e-banking, etc., excluding, however, all the social media sites.
To amplify, there shall be complete restriction on social media applications allowing peer to peer communication and virtual network applications for the time-being.
Mobile internet for white-listed site access in five districts
2G mobile connectivity on post paid mobiles for accessing white-listed sites, including for e-banking, shall be allowed, to begin with, in the districts of Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and Reasi.
In other districts of Jammu and Kashmir, mobile internet connectivity shall remain suspended all further directions
Precautionary measures to prevent misuse
The Institutions and Government offices that are being provided internet access shall be responsible to prevent any misuse, for which they shall take all necessary precautions, including appointment of nodal officers, keeping a record of persons/devices, managing and monitoring day to day usage, changing accessibility credentials on a daily basis and ensure internet availability only to authorised users etc.
The directions are to be effective from today for a 7 day period, unless modified earlier.
Internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir were placed over five months earlier, prompting various petitioners to approach the top Court challenging the validity of such prolonged suspension of the internet.
The above directions relaxing the internet curbs have been passed in view of the Supreme Court’s judgment in Anuraddha Bhasin v Union of India last week, whereby it directed that internet suspension orders in Jammu and Kashmir be reviewed bearing in mind principles of proportionality.
The Government has specified that the directions have been passed also bearing in mind cross-border terror threats and activities of separatist/anti-national elements within who are attempting to incite people by transmission of fake news and targeted messages through the internet.
The notification also makes a reference to intelligence inputs that there are sustained efforts being made by terrorists to infiltrate the border and re-activate their cadres by communicating with their operatives within J&K through Voice on Internet Protocol (VOIP) and encrypted mobile communication to coordinate and plan terror attacks.
The notification adds that the misuse of data services by anti-national elements has the potential to cause large-scale violence and disturb public order, which has been maintained toll now due to pre-emptive measures, including restrictions on internet access and gradual, calibrated relaxation.