SMS Ban, Cellular Jam
Unreasonable: Legal experts
GOVT SILENT ON WHY SERVICE STOPPED
Srinagar, July 24: With millions of subscribers in Kashmir suffering due to ban on Short Messaging Service across the Valley and on cellular service in north Kashmir areas, the Jammu and Kashmir government is yet to make public the reasons behind the “drastic move.”
It has been almost a month since the SMS service was banned in Kashmir while cellular service was completely snapped in north Kashmir areas of Varmul, Sopur, Rafiabad and Sangrama, but the subscribers were informed about the reasons behind the ban.
Neither the state government nor the private cellular companies, who earn millions of rupees in the Valley monthly, deemed it appropriate to inform the subscribers that their phones were being blocked or SMS banned.
“The service was snapped all of a sudden,” said Zahoor Ahmad Wani, a resident of Sangrama. “Nobody has informed us why we have been given this punishment. It is unfortunate that in this age of information technology, we are deprived of the means of communication. This is unheard of in any part of the world. Such steps are taken in war-like situations.”
Legal experts here believe the State had failed to notify publicly why the retrogressive step was taken. “People have the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. This includes the right to communicate. The modern day technology has evolved techniques of speedy communication by electronic means. Cell phones, Short Messaging Service are the means of communication. The State under law has the power to impose reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression. In the present scenario, the question is whether by suspending mobile or SMS services the state can be said to have acted reasonably?” said the senior counsel, Zaffar Ahmad Shah.
He said, “There is no evidence so far regarding any public notice issued by the state to show that the cell phones or SMS services have in any manner abused the system. Taking decisions at the instance of armchair advisors without any basis thereof is clearly unreasonable and arbitrary.”
Shah, the senior advocate in J&K High Court, said the general rule was that the people should be allowed to communicate by all means. “And to stop them from communication is only an exception. The action can be challenged on the basis of arbitrariness, unreasonability and contrary to pubic interest,” he told Greater Kashmir.
What is interesting to note is that in north Kashmir areas, the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) was allowed to operate its services. The ban was enforced only on the private cellular companies like Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, Tata Indicom, Idea and Rcom.
This ‘selective approach’ of the state government has angered thousands of subscribers in north Kashmir, who accuse the government of putting them to trouble. Pertinently, the worst affected subscribers there are the traders who have suffered a severe impact on their fruit business. “We are unable to communicate with our dealers in other parts of the country,” said Ghulam Qadir, a fruit grower in Sopur. “We can’t do our business in the absence of communication. So this ban has rendered our business paralyzed. We request the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah to intervene and get the ban lifted in the interest of people.”
The Chief Secretary, SS Kapur could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts.
However, a senior officer in the state administration said the ban might have been imposed to bring the “volatile situation in the Valley under control.” “The subscribers would exchange provocative messages which added fuel to the fire in Kashmir. So the ban must have been imposed to bring the situation under control. Through messages, there is every possibility of spreading rumours which can fuel the crisis,” the officer, pleading anonymity, told Greater Kashmir.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 24 Jul 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 24 Jul 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 25 Jul 2010 00:00:00 IST
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