On Tuesday, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it would confirm if Jammu and Kashmir administration has sent any communication to the home affairs ministry for reinstating 4G mobile internet services in the Union territory and sought time to file a response to the rejoinder affidavit filed by an NGO.
The Attorney General, appearing for the Central Government, submitted the contempt petition filed by Foundation for Media Professionals, claiming that the May 11 order by the Apex Court has not been adhered to, the way directions were given to set up a Special Committee for discussing the limitations on internet services in Jammu and Kashmir.
It was not feasible to reinstate 4G services for the present but left it to the UT administration to resolve, asserted the Centre in the affidavit filed last week.
The three-judge bench, lead by Justice NV Ramana, asked the Centre to confirm this fact. The case has been posted for August 7. Initially, the bench had asked the J&K administration and the Centre to respond on August 5. The officers may not be available on August 5, said the law officers, and expressed unwillingness over the date.
The Centre and JK administration had told the top court, on July 16, that a special committee has been set up as per the court’s instruction to consider the 4G Internet services reinstatement issue in the Union Territory.
High-speed internet service in JK has been suspended since August last year when the Centre had declared the state’s special status revocation and its bifurcation into two UTs – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The services were partly reinstated only at 2G speed for mobile users on the Supreme Court’s order in January 2020.
The May 11 order was passed after the NGO in April opposed limitation on mobile internet speed to 2G.
The Centre has throughout asserted that 4G restoration is not feasible as terrorist activities are increasing. The government’s stance in court was questioned by the Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi and advocate Shadan Farasat.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta who is appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration submitted that Rejoinder filed by the petitioner in reply to the counter affidavit was lengthy and needed time for its perusal. The appeal is rational as the rejoinder was served on Monday evening, said Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing the petitioner NGO. He did not resist Mehta’s proposal.
Lt. Governor wants that 4G internet services should be reinstated in the state, Huzefa Ahmadi informed the Court. A similar statement was also made by BJP leader Madhav, who further added and solicited that the SG look into this.
In the previous hearing, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that a special committee chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla met twice on the requirement to evaluate the limitations placed on a high-speed 4G Internet connection in Jammu and Kashmir but postponed its decision on the matter considering the continued terror attacks and the startling situation in the Valley.
Attorney General KK Venugopal appeared for Centre.
The NGO sought restoration of high-speed 4G internet services saying that the court should direct the special committee, if notified, to consider the harm suffered by healthcare professionals, students, businessperson, and ordinary people residing in J&K due to the prolonged Internet restrictions.
It pointed out slow internet speed makes telemedicine, or online consultation, impossible.