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Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted before a three judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice NV Ramana that internet speed in Jammu and Kashmir has been restricted to 2G as militancy is still present in the valley.
A Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai heard a batch of petitions challenging the J&K government order of March 26 restricting the internet speed to 2G as compared to 4G in other parts of India.
AG Venugopal submitted how the situation was serious in the valley and why internet speed restriction was put in place.
To this Justice Ramana stated that all of this should be in an affidavit.
Solicitor General sought a week's time to file a "consolidated report" detailing why internet speed restriction was needed.
Justice Ramana had enquired to know about the status of a suo moto case taken up by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court on this issue of internet speed. However, the Solicitor General informed the Court that he would take instructions on it.
However Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi attempted to explain how the J&K High Court was looking at a gamut of issues and that internet services was only a part of it.
"The plea by 'Foundation for Media Professionals' focuses on this particular aspect- on 4G services. High Court matter is on a whole gamut of matters and only one issue is of internet services. For health there is a need for 4G services to consult doctors and not crowd hospitals or any kind of advice for any ailment 4G is necessary," said Ahmadi.
Even Zoom or any app that requires video stream specifically requires 4G services," said Ahmadi adding that it has also hampered the delivery of education to children during COVID19 lockdown.
On April 10, the three judge bench had sought a response in a week from the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea demanding restoration of 4G connectivity in the Union territory amid the rising cases of COVID-19.
The PIL filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals challenged the government order of 26 March restricting internet speed to 2G in the Union territory, on the grounds that such an order violates provisions of equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, right to life and liberty, and right of children to free and compulsory education, granted under Articles 14, 19, 21, and 21A of the Constitution.
Restricting internet speed is unreasonable, especially when there is a global pandemic and a nationwide lockdown imposed by the Indian government, contended the petitioner.
Doctors and patients in the region are unable to access the latest information, advisories, and guidelines because of the restricted access to the internet, the petitioner claimed in the plea.
Schools are also unable to impart education online, the petition added.
In another plea, an association of more than 2,200 schools across Jammu and Kashmir, challenges the government orders as being violative of their fundamental right to education, especially since the lockdown for containing COVID-19 has led to home-bound virtual classes.
The plea filed by the 'Private Schools Association J&K', through advocates Soayib Qureshi and Charu Ambwani stated that “internet” is now a “medium of imparting education,” especially after the nationwide lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However in today's hearing, Advocate Ambwani again reiterated how 2200 schools are unable to hold classes due to internet speed restrictions.
To this SG Mehta sought to know "how many students in J&K have laptops and tablets?"
Ambwani stated that almost 7 lakh students were at stake.
"Most of the students have tabs or laptops. The hardware is available. The internet connectivity is not there," said Advocate Ambwani.
The plea goes on to detail how the slow internet speed was proving to be an obstacle for students in Jammu & Kashmir.
Supreme Court has now asked J&K Govt to file an affidavit by Sunday (April 26) and has indicated that the next hearing is likely to be on April 27.