New Delhi: High-speed internet services will be restored on a trial basis in two districts in Jammu and Kashmir that have low threshold of terrorist activities, the central government told the Supreme Court Tuesday.
One district each will be selected in Jammu and Kashmir regions to start the services after 15 August. The situation in the two districts will be monitored for two months, after which it will be reviewed.
The districts will not be in the area adjoining the Line of Control or the International Boundary, the court was informed.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal made these submissions before a Justice N.V. Ramana-led bench, which was hearing a contempt petition by an NGO — Foundation for Media Professionals — against the Centre for failing to comply with its 11 May judgment. The court had then ordered to set up a panel to explore the possibility of resuming 4G services in J&K.
On 7 August, the bench gave a final opportunity to the central government and the J&K administration to place their definite stand on the resumption of 4G services in the Union Territory.
On Tuesday, Venugopal said the panel constituted in accordance with the court order met on 10 August and opined that the situation in J&K is still not conducive to resume high-speed internet services. However, a careful and calibrated view was taken after which it recommended restoring 4G services in certain areas under strict vigilance, he said.
According to the panel’s suggestion, the areas selected will be those having low-intensity terrorist activities and minimal spillover effects on neighbouring areas, Venugopal said.
Questions over panel
The petitioner’s lawyer, senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, welcomed the Centre’s decision. “This is a welcome move,” he told the bench.
However, he raised concerns over the non-publication of orders of the high-powered panel. Moreover, Ahmadi pointed out that the panel does not carry out a weekly review of its decision according to the top court’s ruling.
The bench asked the government to file its response in this context within two weeks.
With regard to contempt, Ahmadi said he would not press it any further.
‘Why are orders not in public domain?’
During the hearing, Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta earlier urged the bench to dispose of the proceedings in wake of the panel’s decision.
“The committee is already in place. I don’t know why he wants to keep this issue pending. These things are taken care of daily,” Mehta told the bench.
However, Justice Ramana said, “The question is why the orders are not in public domain.”
But Venugopal rebutted Ahmadi’s argument: “All orders have been put up on the website. The review committee deliberations cannot be put out there,” he argued.
No contempt by us, says govt
In a fresh affidavit filed before the top court Tuesday, the Centre also denied allegations of “wilfull disobedience” by government officials.
“Assertions of the petitioner with regard to non-compliance are false,” the affidavit said.
It also refuted the petitioner’s argument that restrictions on internet had affected healthcare services and school education in the UT amid the pandemic.
“The committee was of the considered view that given the current security scenario, both in Jammu and Kashmir and in surrounding areas, the overall situation is still not conducive to lifting the limited restrictions on high-speed internet through mobile devices whilst allowing broadband and 2G across the board,” said the affidavit.
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