The Supreme Court on Monday refused to pass orders to restore 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir and instead directed the Centre to form a special committee to examine the petitioners’ demands, Live Law reported.
A three-judge bench, led by Justice NV Ramana, said that the special committee will comprise of secretaries from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Communications, as well as the chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir.
“This court has to ensure national security and human rights are balanced,” the bench said. “We do recognise that the Union Territory has plunged into crisis. At the same time, the court is cognisant to the concerns related to the ongoing pandemic and hardships.”
On May 4, the top court had reserved its order on the petitions for restoration of 4G services in the region. During that hearing, the Centre had cited the Handwara military operation, in which five soldiers died, as an argument to defend the lack of 4G internet in the Union Territory. “Terrorists are being pushed into the country,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the court.
The petitioners had argued that 4G services were essential amid the coronavirus pandemic so that people can connect with doctors in case of emergencies. They also said that without high speed internet services, schools have been facing problems in holding virtual classes for their students amid the lockdown. Doctors have also spoken out against the suspension of internet services, which is necessary in the times of a health crisis.
Jammu and Kashmir has reported 861 cases of the coronavirus and nine deaths, according to data from the Union health ministry.
Mobile internet services were snapped across Kashmir after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo on May 6. The restrictions were imposed at a time when the Valley is still emerging from the communications blackout after August 5, when the Centre scrapped the region’s special status and split it into two Union Territories.