Committee set up on restoration of 4G service, no contempt made: Centre, J&K tell SC

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The Centre and Jammu and Kashmir administration told the Supreme Court on Thursday that a special committee has been set up as per the court’s directive on the issue of restoration of 4G internet services in the Union Territory.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, while claiming that incidents of terrorism are on the rise there, told a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana that no contempt is made out against the authorities as they have complied with the directive of the apex court.

On May 11, the top court had ordered setting up of a “special committee” headed by the Union Home Secretary to consider pleas for restoration of 4G internet services in J-K, saying national security and human rights need to be balanced in view of the fact that the UT has been “plagued with militancy”.

High speed internet in J-K has been suspended since August last year when the Centre had announced revocation of its special status and bifurcation of the state into two UTs — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

During the hearing on Thursday, the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and B R Gavai, asked the Centre and the J-K administration to file affidavits within a week detailing the setting up of committee and also decisions taken by it in reviewing the orders restricting 4G internet services there.

The apex court was hearing a plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretary of J-K for their alleged “wilful disobedience” in complying with the court’s May 11 order.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the petitioner, claimed that the order was not been complied with and the authorities were not responding to the representations filed against suspension of 4G internet services.

He said since orders passed by the authorities are not being published, nobody can challenge them before the court.

To this, the bench observed the orders passed by the committee should be put in public domain.

Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said that orders suspending 4G internet services have been passed after due application of mind.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the J-K administration, also told the bench that the special committee has already been set up.

Ahmadi told the apex court that absence of 4G internet speed has affected the people there, including in online classes for students, medical facilities, e-commerce and online shopping.

Referring to earlier statement of the Union Home Minister, Ahmadi argued he had said that terrorism is at the lowest since 1990 in Kashmir.

The contempt plea, filed by Foundation for Media Professionals, has alleged that the concerned authorities have not yet constituted the special committee in line with the top court’s order.

“It is respectfully submitted that such a lax attitude, especially during a health pandemic (COVID-19) and humanitarian crisis, violates both the letter and the spirit of this court’s judgment….and amounts to wilful disobedience of this court’s judgment and order, which had taken judicial notice of the concerns relating to the ongoing pandemic and the hardships that may be faced by the people of Jammu & Kashmir,” the plea has claimed.

It has alleged that authorities were duty bound to implement the court’s direction but they have failed to notify and facilitate the functioning of the special committee.

“The directions of this court have been summarily ignored and the Respondents have wilfully disobeyed their duty to implement this court’s directions, which they were bound to and had undertaken to implement, and therefore must be held in contempt of this court,” the plea claimed.

It has also urged the apex court to summon the Union Home Secretary and Chief Secretary of UT of Jammu and Kashmir to explain their position with respect to the alleged non-compliance of the court’s directions.

It said that Jammu and Kashmir administration had on May 27 passed an order continuing the restriction on mobile internet speeds to 2G in all districts throughout the UT without any restriction by time or region.

It said the petitioner had sent a representation to the special committee regarding the May 27 order but they have not yet received any acknowledgment of its receipt.

Besides the contempt plea, the petitioner has also filed an application seeking directions to the authorities to notify the constitution of the special committee within three working days.

The application has sought an interim direction to the authority to restore 4G mobile internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, pending disposal of the plea and also the decision by the special committee.

The court had earlier taken note of the submissions of the Centre that continuous infiltration, foreign influence, violent extremism and issues of national integrity are prevalent in J-K.

The apex court’s the May 11 order had come on the pleas filed by Foundation for Media Professionals and others seeking restoration of 4G services in the UT.