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Foundation Of Media Professionals Files Contempt Petition In SC Over Non-Constitution Of Special Committee To Review J&K Internet Curbs

9 Jun 2020 11:04 AM GMT
Foundation Of Media Professionals Files Contempt Petition In SC Over Non-Constitution Of Special Committee To Review J&K Internet Curbs
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Stating that the failure of the government officials in constituting a "Special Committee" to review the internet restrictions amounted to contempt of court, Foundation of Media Professionals, which was one of the petitioners in the Court seeking immediate restoration of 4G net services in the region, filed a contempt petition in the top court on Tuesday.

On May 11, the a bench headed by Justice N B Ramana had directed that a "Special Committee" be constituted to "immediately" to determine the necessity of continued restriction of mobile internet speeds in Jammu & Kashmir to 2G only.

This Committee  had to also consider the Petitioner's alternatives and determine whether 3G/4G internet could be provided to certain regions on a trial basis.

The Court said that a "Special Committee", which is separate from the Review Committee prescribed under the Temporary Telecom Suspension Rules 2017, was necessary having regard to the seriousness of the matter.

"we are of the view that since the issues involved affect the State, and the nation, the Review Committee which consists of only State level officers, may not be in a position to satisfactorily address all the issues raised. We, therefore, find it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State, level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir", the SC had observed.

The Special Committee was to comprise of (a) Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (Home Secretary), Government of India, (b) Secretary, Department of Communications, Ministry of Communications, Government of India and (c) Chief Secretary, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the petition notes that despite the directions of the Court, no such Committee seems to have been constituted, and no order has been published by them, reviewing the UT of J&K's orders. This is despite the J&K administration choosing to continue the speed restrictions till June 17 as per order issued on May 27, highlights the petition.

Though two representations to members of the Special Committee on 16 May 2020 and 28 May 2020 urging them to comply with the Supreme Court's judgement but it did not receive any response or acknowledgement of receipt of the representations, said the FMP.

The petition thus seeks initiation of contempt proceedings and summoning of the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Chief Secretary, U.T. of Jammu & Kashmir who are members of the Special Committee to explain their wilful disobedience of the Supreme Court's judgement.

Ajay Kumar Bhalla, the Secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs and B.V.R. Subhrahmanyam, Chief Secretary of Union Territory of J&K, are added in personal capacities as respondents in the contempt petition.

"The Respondents' conduct amounts to contempt of court, and contempt proceedings should be initiated against them forthwith", stated the petition filed through Advocate Shadan Farasat.

Application for immediate restoration of 4G services

Foundation for Media Professionals also filed an application for directions along with the contempt petition to bring on record subsequent orders issued by the U.T. of Jammu & Kashmir under the Temporary Telecom Suspension Rules 2017 after the Supreme Court delivered its judgement on 11 May 2020.

The Application notes that even after the Supreme Court's clarification that restrictions on internet access must be temporally and territorially limited to what is absolutely necessary, the U.T. of Jammu & Kashmir has directed internet service providers to slow down mobile internet speed to 2G in all districts of Jammu & Kashmir without providing any specific reasons for different districts.

The Application also challenges the government's assertion that internet speed restrictions have not hindered COVID-19 control measures and access to online resources by relying on personal testimonies and technical analysis previously placed on record by the Petitioner about the practical impact of denial of 4G internet services.

The Application further states that restoration of 4G internet services is a broad based demand which has been endorsed by Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of BJP as well, and it quotes a statement by Amit Shah, Minister of Home Affairs about Jammu & Kashmir experiencing lowest incidents of terrorism since 1990 after abrogation of Article 370. The prayer in the Application seeks a direction to the U.T. of Jammu & Kashmir and Ministry of Home Affairs to notify the Special Committee within three working days and for the Special Committee to determine the issue in three working days.

In the interim, the Application seeks a direction from the Supreme Court to restore 4G internet services in Jammu & Kashmir till the Special Committee issues a decision.

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