Miffed over slow internet speed, High Court summons J-K home secretary on Thursday

Srinagar, July 14: The continuous curb on the internet speed and restricting the same to 2G speed has now miffed the Chief Justice as the High Court of J&K finds it hard to conduct online hearings due to curbs on internet speed in Jammu and Kashmir.

The High Court Chief Justice (CJ)  Gita Mittal has now summoned Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra to appear before a bench on Thursday via video conferencing and apprise it about the impact of the restrictions on e-connectivity of courts.

CJ while passing an order on Monday, by division bench of Chief Justice Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar expressed concern over urgent issues involving the rights of the residents of the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

In its three-page order, the division bench has said that the virtual hearing has become a need as the strict lockdown is again being enforced, following a surge in coronavirus cases.

The order by the bench read, “However, we find today that despite best efforts on the part of our IT experts, it has been impossible today to have even a bare semblance of a hearing. We have struggled to have virtual/or audio connectivity with the amicus curiae (Monika Kohli) and the several counsels appearing before us. Even the learned Advocate General has expressed grave difficulty in joining the hearing.”

The division bench further noted that access to justice is a fundamental right and cannot be impeded while reasoning that courts remain accessible to every citizen of the union territories.

“Given the extreme difficulty being faced by us, let Shaleen Kabra, Home Secretary, appear before us through video conferencing and apprise this court about the impact of the restrictions on e-connectivity of the courts,” the order further read while posting the matter for July 16.

The court while referring to an order passed by the Supreme Court in May in which the apex court had constituted a committee at the highest level to undertake a review of connectivity restrictions imposed by authorities.

The Supreme Court had on May 11 ordered setting up a high-powered committee headed by the Union home secretary which will examine the relief sought by journalists, doctors and lawyers community from Jammu and Kashmir and further explore an alternative mechanism to resolve problems arising out of slow Internet speed in the union territory amid a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The high court while taking the suo motu cognisance of the difficulties faced by the public during the COVID-19 lockdown had appointed Monika Kohli as an amicus curiae in the case.

The high court, in April, had further asked for a status report on restoration of 4G internet facility in the UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh after it was informed that non-availability of high-speed internet was hampering studies of children who were confined to their homes because of the lockdown due to pandemic.

The high court chief justice has been constantly reviewing the response of administrations of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh in tackling COVID-19 and holding regular hearings through video conferencing with all stakeholders involved in the fight against COVID-19.

Internet was barred in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state on August 5th last year after the Centre announced revocation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into union territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. It was however restored in January this year in a phased manner but with a slow speed of 2G. (CNS)

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