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The Supreme Court will pronounce its order on Monday, May 11 on the batch of petitions seeking restoration of 4G internet in the Kashmir region amid this lockdown.
While the government cited national security reasons for the move to snap 4G internet in the valley, the petitioners submited that the slow internet speed as opposed to 4G in the rest of the country hampered the "Right to education" and "Right to healthcare" in the region.
The Bench of Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai had reserved its order in the matter on May 4 after hearing the submissions in the case via video conferencing.
On April 30, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had told the Supreme Court that right to internet access is not a fundamental right and the state can curtail the freedom of speech and right to trade through internet.
The administration opposed the restoration of 4G services in the Union Territory, saying that a very reasonable quantum of restrictions has been imposed by reducing the speed of internet. The same is done to protect the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the country, the J&K authorities had told the Court.
This argument was however, countered by Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi representing one of the petitioners, Foundation for Media Professionals, who asserted during his submissions that the 2G internet speed was infringing upon the Right to Healthcare of citizens. Slow internet was leaving doctors without access to technology needed to combat COVID-19.
Ahmadi had also highlighted that the right to access healthcare is inherent under Article 21 and that the restrictions on the internet speed were leading to "deprivation of fundamental rights" which needed to be "judged in the light of the pandemic." Ahmadi, while substantiating his submissions on how slow the connection is, stated that "even Arogya Setu app cannot be downloaded and operated by people" in the valley.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on being asked about the same had responded to say that health services in the valley were functioning and added further that several areas in the country besides Kashmir had 2G internet and yet, "there is no information that someone has died of COVID-19 because they didn't have internet access,"
Arguing on the impact of slow internet on education in Kashmir, Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid representing one of the petitioners, stated that private schools are under government directions to provide education via Video-conferencing. The same was not possible in the existing slow speed internet, it was pointed out.
Attorney General for India KK Venugopal however continued to make submissions on the aspect of security and reasoned that high speed internet would make access to information regarding movement of the troops in the region easy. This would thereby jeopardise the security situation in the Union Territory.
Advocate Soayib Qureshi arguing as petitioner in person stated that if security threat is an issue, then social media sites can be restricted.
"Government orders have repeatedly said anti national inflammatory information is being disseminated through social media platforms. Why can't there be a restriction on social media? Why restrict internet access?" Qureshi had argued.
After hearing the arguments in the matter, the Court had reserved its order on May 4.
Read Petition in Soayib Qureshi vs UT of J&K
Read Petition in Pvt Schools Association J&K vs UT of J&K
Read Petition in Foundation for Media Professionals vs UT of J&K