The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to file their responses to a plea seeking directions to restore 4G internet services in the Union Territory in view of the coronavirus crisis, PTI reported.
The petition, filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals, challenged an order issued by the Jammu and Kashmir administration on March 26 stating only 2G mobile internet services will be available to residents till April 3. It alleged the government order was violative of a citizen’s right to equality, freedom of speech and right to life, guaranteed in the Constitution.
The petition demanded the government to ensure the “flow of information to citizens during these extraordinary times” when the number of coronavirus cases in Jammu and Kashmir has reached 33, with two deaths.
The right to health requires the state to actively ensure the presence of necessary infrastructure, and a well-functioning internet, especially in times of Covid-19, is an essential part of it, the plea said. The slow internet speed also makes online video consultation impossible, the petition added.
“In these conditions – a pandemic and a lock-down – the restriction of mobile internet speeds to 2G only is completely unreasonable, illegal, and unconstitutional for the following reasons,” it added.
Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the petitioner, contended that in view of the ongoing lockdown, it is necessary to “enhance the technology and connectivity” in the Union Territory. He highlighted that slow internet speed also impacts the education of students who are unable to take online classes.
“The right to internet connectivity has repeatedly been recognised by the Government of India as a basic necessity or an essential service to ensure the right to health,” the plea said.
In March, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had revoked the ban on social media nearly seven months after it was put in place as the Centre stripped the region of its special status. So far, the administration had allowed usage of 2G internet speed, and access was granted to only whitelisted websites.