NEW Delhi: The Supreme court on Thursday directed the Union government and Jammu and Kashmir administration to file a detailed affidavit in a contempt plea over the non-constitution of a special committee to review the ban on 4G mobile phone services in Jammu and Kashmir.
On 11 May, the top court, asked the Centre to form a special committee to examine the issues caused due to slow speed of internet in the Union territory. A three-member panel, headed by the Union home secretary, will also have the secretary of the ministry of communication, and the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary as its members, the court had ordered.
A contempt petition was filed on 9 June by Foundation for Media Professionals, an NGO, stating that the Centre and J&K government had willfully not complied with the Top court’s order which had directed for the constitution of a committee to examine into the issue of ban on 4G internet in the Valley.
The NGO claims that neither any such committee has been constituted not any order has been published and placed in public records, reviewing the internet restrictions. It also alleged that two representations were sent to the member of the special committee on 16 May and 28 May, to comply with the court’s order, but no response was received.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing the NGO, argued that their representation and complaint to the government is not being responded to and since the orders aren’t being published, the same cannot be challenged before the court.
He apprised the bench that the medical facilities continue to suffer in the Union territory. He also added that children are unable take online classes due to slow internet speed. “What entire country enjoys, only this state cannot. This directly infringes Article 21(the right to life and liberty),” he said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Jammu and Kashmir, informed the bench that a high-powered committee to review the ban on 4G internet had been created and the committee had taken a decision. He submitted that the details of the committee and decisions will be placed on record before the court.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the Centre, said that no contempt is made out since the committee is already formed and orders of suspension of the internet are issued after due application of mind. He added that minutes of the meeting will be placed in a sealed cover before the court as they reveal startling situation in J&K, details of terror attacks and local attacks included.
The bench headed by Justice NV Ramana, said “If you have complied with the orders given in May, then it is needed to publish that in public domain”
The court asked the Centre and J&K administration to file their replies within a week. However, it did not issue any formal notices.
The NGO has also filed an interim application, seeking immediate restoration of 4G internet in J&K, stating that it is almost a year since 5 August, when the internet speed was reduced.
The plea also sought for initiation of contempt proceedings and summoning of the remembers of the committee and explanation on the willful disobedience of the apex court’s order.
The Union government suspended all modes of communication in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. Internet and mobile services were partially restored later, but internet speed was restricted to 2G.