FOUNDATION FOR MEDIA PROFESSIONALS V. UNION TERRITORY OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR & ANR.WP (C) DIARY NO. 10817 OF 2020
This case is with respect to the blanket ban on the usage of 4G/3G internet services across the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir and the alleged violation of the fundamental right to education, health, and business of the people of the region.
The Petitioners contended that the non-allowance of 3G and 4G net services across the Union territory has violated the fundamental right to education (guaranteed under Article 21A of the Constitution) of the students and other educational professionals in the region by making online learning (which includes: online classes, webinars, etc) non-accessible for them. The limitation of the net speed had a widespread impact on the right to health and business as well (which are protected under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution). The Petitioner pleaded that in the midst of a national lockdown and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in the entire country, the people of J&K are being deprived of the information and awareness regarding the same over the internet.
The respondents, on the other hand, pleaded that the net speed restrictions were in the interest of the people of the region since there have been multiple terror incidents in the Union Territory of J&K since August 5, 2020 (the day when the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution was scraped) and nevertheless the region had a history of terrorism-related activities, cross border terrorism, etc. Moreover, the Government said that the terror organizations will be using the high net speeds to carry out terror attacks and thus destabilize the region. The Respondents also placed before the court certain report which highlighted the fact that there was a threat of a cross border cyber-terrorist attack in the region. Regarding the issue of the alleged violation of the right to health and education, the respondents claimed that there were awareness drives being carried out against the outbreak of Covid-19 in the state through the wired net, radio, television, etc, and there were the distribution of pamphlets for awareness against the Pandemic. Moreover, the government has also distributed books and were carrying out several educational programs through different mediums other than the internet.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court Bench consisting of Reddy J. And N.V. Ramana J. considered the fact that there must be a “balance between national security and human rights of the general public”. The Court also highlighted certain guidelines which were delivered by the Court in the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India. Noticing that since the issues involved affect the State, and the nation, the Court was of the opinion that the Review Committee which consists of only State-level officers, may not be in a position to satisfactorily address all the issues raised. It, hence, found it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State, level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union The territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Committee will consists of:
The Committee will not only examine the contentions of, and the material placed by both the parties but also examine the appropriateness of the alternatives suggested by the Petitioners, regarding limiting the restrictions to those areas where it is necessary and the allowing of faster internet (3G or 4G) on a trial basis over certain geographical areas and advise the Centre regarding the same.