Kashmir’s wait for 4G Internet service set to get longer

Published : April 10, 2020 11:50 IST

In Srinagar, journalists browse the Internet at the media centre set up by the government. Photo: Dar Yasin/AP

The Supreme Court has sought a reply from the Centre on the restoration of 4G Internet services in the Kashmir valley. The court was hearing, on April 9, a Public Interest Litigation petition filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals on the issue. The restoration of 4G Internet was imperative in the battle against COVID-19, the petition stated. It challenged the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s March 26 order that restricted Internet speed at 2G, arguing that people in Kashmir were unable to access important guidelines and latest updates regarding the pandemic because of the slow Internet speed.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices N.V. Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai heard the PIL through video conferencing and issued the notice to Standing Counsel of Jammu and Kashmir over e-mail and sought its reply in a week’s time.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, who appeared for the petitioner, pointed out that the plans to kickstart virtual classrooms for school children during the lockdown would come a cropper if 4G Internet remained suspended. The Directorate of School Education in J&K recently took the initiative to reach out to students on the mobile app Zoom.

He contended that the decision to deny the people of Kashmir high speed Internet was violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. The PIL further stated: “The right to health is a composite right which requires the state to take active measures to ensure the presence of necessary physical, and, by extension, digital infrastructure, and a well-functioning Internet, especially in times of an epidemic such as COVID19, is an essential part of this digital infrastructure that is required to make this right an effective reality.”

Last month, Amnesty International India had called for restoration of uninterrupted 4G Internet services at the earliest. “There is growing anxiety around the pandemic, and unwarranted restrictions on content and dissemination of information only stand to add to the panic,” Amnesty International India said on March 19.