New Delhi, April 29: The Jammu and Kashmir has filed its reply to the plea seeking restoration of 4G internet connectivity in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir by the apex court order on April 09.
Formulating a consolidated reply to similar/ identical petitions filed for the common prayer of restoration of 4G, it has been averred that since the Government Order of March 26 which has extended restrictions on connectivity to April 3 “no longer exists”, the petitions filed therto, assailing the G.O. are rendered infructuous.
Further, the petitioner states that as a “sequel” to the G.O. had already been issued on April 3 as well, the interlocutory Application which challenged the aforementioned order is therefore infructuous.
Stating that the contentions of “alleged deprivation of access to education, health care facilities/updates” are incorrect as the administration of J&K is “taking all possible steps to ensure minimum impact of COVID19 is felt”.
The Government has answered in its preliminary submissions that it is wary of the “constitutional” & “statutory obligations”, in light of which it has been exercising powers under relevant statutes vis-à-vis The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885′ and The Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services(Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 20172017 Rules).
“The orders issued, which are placed in public domain, are not only in consonance with the statutory mandate but also in conformity with the directions/guidelines laid down by this Hon’ble Court while imposing restrictions inter alia, on mobile data/internet services” the reply states.
Apropos this, the answering respondent, i.e. the Government of J&K submit that under Rule 2(6) of the 2017 Rules, the “misuse/abuse of exercise of power under such orders imposing restrictions” are reviewed within seven working days and due consideration is accorded to concerned stakeholders.
“It is ensured that the restriction on access to internet is commensurate to the gravity of situation and accords with provisions of section 5 of the Telegraph Act” the Government avers in its reply.
The reply goes on to justify the rationale of the imposition of restrictions in J&K.
Government has averred that while enunciating restrictions, various aspects such as “public safety and interest” as well as the “principle of proportionality”, “extent of reasonability of restriction”, “available alternatives” and “incitement to any offence /security/sovereignty and integrity of India” are considered.
Law & order, internal security, circulation of inflammatory material, prevention of losses to human life, geographical proximity with Pakistan, among other things, have been emphasised by the Government in order to justify the imposition of restrictions.
“It is pertinent to mention that the prayers prayed for by the petitioners and the present affidavit needs to be appreciated in light of the fat that since 199041866 persons have lost their lives in 71038 incidents throughout the erstwhile State of J&K. This includes 14038 civilians, 5292 personnel of security forces and 22536 terrorists. These figures depict the nuances and emphasis the unavoidable requirement of reasonable restrictions given the very peculiar geo-political position of Jammu & Kashmir and its geographical proximity with Pakistan”.
The Government has also emphasised that the without lifting of restrictions gradationally shall be detrimental to India as well as to the general public.
Reference to the allegedly ill-conceived discourse on social media & ongoing militancy have also been made stating that “Shadow handles, believed to have been “inspired by/o at the behest of Pakistan Army try to allure people from Kashmir and living outside the country, to organize violent protests…. cross border terrorism and violent activities carried out by the banned terror outfits like JeM, LeT, HM, operating with the external support are too well known. New outfits are being launched, like TRF and TMI, instigating the youth to join terrorism and there has been a spurt in terror activities in the last fortnight”.
Furthermore, the reply contends that the Administration is spreading awareness & relevant information pertaining to the pandemic among the masses through various means such as by radio broadcasts, hoardings, video spots, pamphlets, handouts, panel discussions on TV etc.
In reply to the hampering of educational facilities, the Government has submitted that though all educational institutions have been closed, teaching facilities are being provided to students largely through “offline mode” and to a very limited extent through online mode by Video lecture series, whatsapp groups chats, phone calls, dissemination of e-content NCERT, tele-classes, CD’s, pendrive etc.
In this backdrop, the Government has claimed that all platforms such as Twitter, facebook, whatsapp can be effectively used by people of J&K to communicate shortage of any essential commodity
The Supreme Court had on April 9 issued notice in a plea seeking restoration of 4G mobile internet services in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, in light of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
The matter was to be listed on April 27, incidentally, the day of extinguishment of order imposing internet restrictions.
On April 27, the Government released an order extending restrictions on 4G internet speed till May 11.
The Central government had imposed a complete communications blackout in the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir in August 2019, right after abrogation of Article 370. Five months later in January 2020, on the basis of a Supreme Court order in the case Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India, the services were partially restored, only at 2G speed for mobile users.
The Supreme Court had thereupon observed that indefinite suspension of internet is “not permissible and restrictions on internet have to follow the principles of proportionality under Article 19(2)”.