Non-constitution of committee to review 4G ban: SC to take up contempt plea on Thursday

The court had observed in its May 11 judgment that indefinite suspension of internet is not permissible and restrictions on internet have to follow principles of proportionality under Article 19(2)

Representative Image (social media)
Representative Image (social media)

NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court will hear on Thursday the contempt petition filed by Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) over the non-constitution of a Special Committee to review the ban on 4G speed internet in Jammu and Kashmir, legal news website has reported.

A bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, R Subash Reddy and B R Gavai will hear the petition, which seeks contempt action against Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Chief Secretary, U.T. of Jammu & Kashmir alleging non-compliance of the May 11 judgment of the Supreme Court, which 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.

While declining to order restoration of 4G net services in J&K, the court had then 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.

Even after such directions, the internet restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir were extended , without the formation of Special Committee, states the plea. This, according to FMP, amounts to "wilful disobedience" of the SC directions.

The contempt petition, filed on June 9, is getting listed for admission on Thursday.

After the SC verdict of May 11, the J&K administration extended the internet curbs thrice – on May 27, June 17 and July 8 – citing threat of cross-border terrorism. The administration also claimed that 2G internet speed has not caused any impediment to COVID-19 control steps, online education or e-commerce.

Along with the contempt plea, FMP has also filed an application for immediate restoration of 4G services in the region, stating that the denial of the same amid the pandemic and lockdown has resulted in disrupting medical services, online education and e-commerce activities.

The Central government had imposed a complete communications blackout in the erstwhile state of J&K in August 2019, right after abrogation of Article 370. Five months later in January 2020, on the basis of a Supreme Court order, 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.

The Supreme Court had observed that indefinite suspension of internet is not permissible and restrictions on internet have to follow the principles of proportionality under Article 19(2).

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

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