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J&K Administration Revokes Restrictions On 4G Mobile Internet

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
5 Feb 2021 2:31 PM GMT
J&K Administration Revokes Restrictions On 4G Mobile Internet
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After nearly 550 days since the suspension of high speed mobile internet on August 5, 2019 in the wake of the revocation of the special status of J&K, the Jammu and Kashmir Home Department on Friday revoked the restrictions on mobile 4G data services in the region.Pre-paid SIM card holders will be given access to internet connectivity only after verification as per norms applicable...

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After nearly 550 days since the suspension of high speed mobile internet on August 5, 2019 in the wake of the revocation of the special status of J&K, the Jammu and Kashmir Home Department on Friday revoked the restrictions on mobile 4G data services in the region.

Pre-paid SIM card holders will be given access to internet connectivity only after verification as per norms applicable to post-paid connections.

The latest order is said to be on the basis of the advise of the Special Committee, which was constituted as per the directions of the Supreme Court in the judgment in the Foundation of Media Professionals Case, following its meeting held on February 4.

Authorities have been directed to "closely monitor" the impact of the lifting of restrictions.



Earlier, Rohit Kansal IAS, Principal Secretary to Power and Information Department in Jammu and Kashmir, informed via Twitter that 4G services were being restored in the entire J&K.



The Central government had imposed a complete communications blackout in the erstwhile state of J&K in August 2019, right after the abrogation of special status Article 370. Five months later in January 2020, on the basis of a Supreme Court order in the Anuradha Bhasin case, the services were partially restored, only at 2G speed for mobile users. Access was provided only to a selected "white-listed" sites, and social media was completely blocked.

On January 10, 2020,  the Supreme Court held that indefinite suspension of the internet is not permissible and restrictions on the internet have to follow the principles of proportionality under Article 19(2).

The blockade on social media was lifted on March 4 last year, but the speed was retained as 2G for mobile data.

Later, on August 16 last year, the Centre restored 4G internet services in two districts -Ganderbal (Kashmir division) and Udhampur(Jammu division), and the denial of high speed internet in the other 18 districts were being extended from time to time, citing the risk of terrorism.

Litigation in Supreme Court for restoration of internet services

There were two rounds of litigation in the Supreme Court seeking restoration of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir.

The first batch of cases, filed soon after the repeal of the J&K's special status, resulted in the judgment Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India in January 2020. Though the judgment waxed eloquent about the necessity of internet for freedom of speech and expression and trade and also about the principles of proportionality, it did not direct the immediate restoration of internet services and relegated the matter to the Central Government for review.

Later, after the onset of COVID, another batch of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court saying that lack of 4G speed was affecting medical services, education, trade and commerce during the lockdown, as such services were being delivered via online during the nation wide lockdown. While denying high speed internet in the region during the pandemic and the lockdown, the authorities claimed that lack of high-speed net has not affected COVID-19 control measures, online education or business.

Those cases were disposed of in May 2020, as per the judgment in Foundation of Media Professionals v Union of India, which also did not order immediate restoration of internet services but constituted a higher level special committee to review the restrictions.  After the verdict, a contempt petition was filed in the Supreme Court contending that the Centre extended the restrictions without constitution of the Committee. The Centre told the bench that the Committee had been constituted and had decided to continue the restrictions on account of terrorism threat.

While the contempt petitions were pending, the Attorney General told the Supreme Court last year that 4G services will be restored in two districts after August 15.

Two weeks back, a fresh petition was filed in the Supreme Court by Private Schools Association of J&K saying that lack of high speed was affecting the right to education of students.






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