Special Committee to assess need for Internet Restrictions in Kashmir still not set up by Government: Contempt plea filed in Supreme Court
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Special Committee to assess need for Internet Restrictions in Kashmir still not set up by Government: Contempt plea filed in Supreme Court

It is noted that a May 27 order to continue internet restrictions cites perennial, non-urgent reasons such as the summer onslaught and melting snow as grounds which effectively render the internet restrictions permanent

Shruti Mahajan

The Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has moved Supreme Court with a contempt plea against government stating that despite the top Court's order to set up a special committee to assess need for internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, the same has not been done yet.

(FMP v. AKB_Contempt Petition 8 June)

(FMP v. UT of Jammu and Kashmir_App for Directions 8 June)

In its order passed on May 11, the Supreme Court had directed the concerned authority to form a special committee to assess the need for continued restrictions on the internet in the Kashmir region of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

FMP's contempt plea highlights that despite a period of nearly a month being elapsed since the order was passed, this order of the Supreme Court has still not been complied with by the government.

Therefore, this plea is filed seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Respondents for their "willful disobedience and failure to constitute a special committee".

The FMP also prays for the Court to summon the Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Chief Secretary of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to explain the position of the government in relation to the non-compliance of this order.

Invoking Section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, read with Article 129 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner society says that it is aggrieved by the willful disobedience demonstrated by the government in complying with the Court's order.

While the Apex Court had directed for the special committee to be set up "immediately", the same has yet not been done, even 29 days after the order, the contempt plea which was filed on June 8 says.

Even after the Court's order, the restriction on the telecom internet services was extended and even upon its expiration on May 27, the same order was not reviewed, the plea says.

Rather, another order was passed on May 27 "continuing the restriction on mobile internet speeds to 2G in all districts throughout the Union Territory, without any tailoring of the restrictions by time or region."

Notably, the petition adds,

"The (May 27) order cites the the onslaught of summer and the melting snow as grounds for restricting the internet speed. Such perennial reasons render internet restrictions permanent and are not based on any 'emergency' or 'urgency' and go against the spirit of the Telecom suspension Rules as well as the judgment of this Hon’ble Court in Anurandha Bhasin v. Union of India, where the Court emphasised that the restrictions cannot be permanent."

It highlights that the review ought to have been done by the review committee in line with the directions passed in the Anuradha Bhasin judgment passed in January this year or by the Special Committee directed to be set up in May in FMP's case.

The plea therefore seeks to bring on record, thr government's "wilful disobedience" of the Court's order "inasmuch as, to the best of the Petitioner’s knowledge, they (government authorities) have not constituted the Special Committee in line with the directions of this Hon’ble Court".

"That the directions of this Hon’ble Court have been summarily ignored and the Respondents have wilfully disobeyed their duty to implement this Court’s directions, which they were bound to and had undertaken to implement, and therefore must be held in contempt of this Hon’ble Court."
FMP's plea says.

It is added further that there is no public record, to the best of the petitioner's knowledge, of a notification for the constitution of the committee, the number of meetings held by the committee, if at all, minutes of such meetings and dates when these meetings were held, among others.

Whereas representations over the issue was sent by the petitioner last month, it is stated that the authorities have not responded to the same as of yet.

The plea adds further that there is no proof of "compliance with Rules 2(2) and 2(5) of Telecom Suspension Rules, which is a clear violation of both the letter and spirit judgments of this Hon’ble Court in Anuradha Bhasin and Foundation for Media Professionals"

It is contended that the directions of the Court have been "summarily ignored" and "willfully disobeyed" by the government which was bound to have implemented the orders in letter and spirit.

"The lack of 4G mobile internet has meant that the residents of Jammu & Kashmir have continued to suffer and be deprived of adequate fulfilment of their right to health, education, employment, and access to justice guaranteed under Article 14, 19, 21 and 21A of the Constitution."
Petitioner

Therefore, the plea has sought for the Court to initiate contempt proceedings against the Respondents.

Further, an application has also been made by the FMP urging the Court to direct the constitution of the special review committee within three working days.

The pleas has been filed through Advocate Shadan Farasat and drafted with assistance by Vrinda Bhandari, Advocate and Apar Gupta and Devdutta Mukhopadhaya of the Internet Freedom Foundation.

Read the Pleas:

FMP v. AKB_Contempt Petition 8 June.pdf
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FMP v. UT of J&K_App for Directions 8 June.pdf
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