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Monday, August 03, 2020

Centre to SC: Need to verify L-G statement on no objection to 4G

High speed internet service in J&K has been suspended since August last year. Governor G C Murmu’s statement is a change in the earlier position taken by the J&K administration.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: July 29, 2020 10:16:43 am
Change in stand: 4G won’t be a problem, J&K to Home Ministry The Centre on Tuesday sought time from the Supreme Court to verify Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu’s statement favouring restoration of 4G internet services in the Union Territory. (File photo)

THE CENTRE on Tuesday sought time from the Supreme Court to verify Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu’s statement favouring restoration of 4G internet services in the Union Territory.

The Indian Express reported on July 26 that the J&K administration has told the Union Ministry of Home Affairs that it does not have any objection to restoring 4G internet services.

“We have been making (a) representation for this… I feel that 4G will not be a problem. I am not afraid (of) how people will use this. Pakistan will do its propaganda, whether it is 2G or 4G. It will always be there… But I don’t see an issue,” Murmu told The Indian Express last week.

Raising the matter before a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana on Tuesday, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for NGO Foundation for Media Professionals, said: “The Lieutenant Governor has made a statement that 4G internet should be restored. Even Ram Madhav, who was the chief interlocutor, says internet can be restored. I am only requesting Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to look into this.”

“We will have to verify this,” Attorney General K K Venugopal said.

Read | EC frowns on J&K L-G talk of election timing, says poll decisions its ‘remit’

Mehta is appearing for the J&K administration in the matter.

The bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai, was hearing a plea seeking contempt proceedings against the government. The NGO has claimed that the government did not comply with the court’s May 11 direction to constitute a special committee, under the Union home secretary, to “immediately determine the necessity of the continuation” of limiting mobile internet speed in the region.

Rejecting the NGO’s claims, the Centre said in an affidavit last week that the special committee has met twice – on May 15 and June 10 – and decided against any further relaxation in restrictions on internet services, including 4G services, in the region for now.

Mehta on Tuesday sought more time to file a reply to the NGO’s rejoinder to the government’s affidavit. The court granted the request.

The bench first fixed the hearing for August 5, but changed it to August 7 on the request of Mehta, who said August 5 would mark one year of the withdrawal of special status to J&K.

High speed internet service in J&K has been suspended since August last year. Murmu’s statement is a change in the earlier position taken by the J&K administration.

On May 11, the J&K administration had sought the dismissal of the NGO’s plea by pointing out that high-speed internet would enable the spread of fake news/ rumours, and transfer of heavy audio/ video files, which could be used by terror outfits for incitement as also in planning attacks.

The Centre, in its affidavit last week, also said that “based on a considered and wide-ranging assessment of the prevailing situation in this sensitive region”, the special committee had decided that “no further relaxation of the restrictions on internet services, including 4G services, could be carried out at present”.

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