[Jammu And Kashmir] Home Ministry Replies On The Status Of Internet Access And Continuing Detentions In The Union Territory

Shama Mahajan

22 Sep 2020 10:44 AM GMT

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  • [Jammu And Kashmir] Home Ministry Replies On The Status Of Internet Access And Continuing Detentions In The Union Territory

    The Ministry of Home Affairs on September 20, 2020 has responded to the unstarred questions pertaining to, the details of the detention of political leaders under the Public Safety Act, 1978 in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, 2019, and of the continuing detainees, government's stance on restoring 4G network in Jammu and Kashmir with the proposed timeline for such restoration...

    The Ministry of Home Affairs on September 20, 2020 has responded to the unstarred questions pertaining to, the details of the detention of political leaders under the Public Safety Act, 1978 in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5, 2019, and of the continuing detainees, government's stance on restoring 4G network in Jammu and Kashmir with the proposed timeline for such restoration and details of steps taken by the government in examining the impact of internet shutdown on provisions of essential services and online education. The unstarred questions were tabled by Congress MP, Rahul Gandhi in Lok Sabha to which Shri. G. Kishan Reddy, Minster of State in Ministry of Home Affairs, has furnished a reply.

    In replying to the demand for details of continued political detentions and the period of such detention in Jammu and Kashmir, it is stated that as of September 11, 2020, total of 223 persons are under detention, under the Public Safety Act, 1978. These detentions have been justified on the ground of maintaining public order by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, which took these measures in the light of the constitutional changes effected by the Parliament in August 2019 with regard to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. However, no reply in writing has been offered to the demand of providing the duration of detention undergone and details of political leaders detained since August 5, 2019.

    The Public Safety Act, 1978 is a state-specific law which permits detention of individuals without trial for up to 12 months if detention is ordered on the ground of maintenance of public order and 2 years if it is on the ground of causing prejudice to security of the state.[1] The Ministry of Home Affairs in a reply to a query by MPs Asaddudin Owaisi and Syed Imtiaz Jaleel informed the Lok Sabha that, no political leader is under House Arrest in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.[2] In July, the Supreme Court had disposed the habeas corpus plea of former Union Minister Prof. Saifuddin Soz on the ground of J&K Home Department's Affidavit claiming that he had never been placed under detention.

    Responding to the question of Government's stance on restoration of 4G network and proposed timeline for the same in Jammu and Kashmir it is provided that, the same has been restored in phased manner. The Ministry has provided that,

    • Internet services have been made available in Kashmir on fixed line (without any speed related restrictions) as well as Mobile Data services (at 2G speed) since 24.01.2020.
    • Restrictions imposed on accessing social media have been lifted with effect from 04.03.2020.
    • High speed mobile data services have commenced in the districts of Ganderbal and Udhampur with effect from 16.08.2020.

    It was also provided that; the shutdown was imposed for a limited duration with regular orders being issued after due assessment of the prevailing situations and in strict adherence to the principles and directions laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court's judgement.

    The UT of Jammu and Kashmir was under a complete internet shut down since August 2019, reported to be the longest ever in a democracy by Access Now, an international advocacy group that tracks Internet suspensions. The telecom/internet services are regulated under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. The internet shut down was ordered by the Government under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state and for maintaining public order. It was only after the Supreme Court came down heavily on the government for indefinite internet suspension and issuing repeated orders under section 144 of Cr.P.C. for the same as blatant abuse of power, that restoration of internet was undertaken by the government.[3] Government was also directed to publish all orders of prohibition to enable affected persons to challenge the same.

    In response to the questions raised pertaining to the impact of internet shutdown on provisions of essential services and online education the Ministry has provided that, businesses in the valley were never deprived of internet and had access via fixed line connectivity without any speed restrictions and internet kiosks operative across the valley. The 2G mobile speed has also not been an impediment in implementing COVID control measures or dissemination of information to general public and health workers. The Government has submitted that, the speed restrictions are neither an hinderance for accessing e-learning apps and education /e-learning websites of the Government for downloading of study material for students nor administration justice. Courts have reportedly taken special measures to conduct their proceedings during the pandemic by providing video links/URLs to the lawyers and the litigants. Economic activities in the UT may have suffered a setback by the pandemic as per the Ministry.

    [Read Q&A]



    [1] Section 18, Public Safety Act, 1978.

    [2] No Political Leader Under House Arrest: Article 370 Revocation Brought Socio-Economic Development In UT Of J&K, Centre Tells Lok Sabha, https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/no-political-leader-under-house-arrest-in-ut-of-jk-162993

    [3] Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, WP(C) No. 1031 of 2019.

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