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SC constitutes Special Committee to deal with issue of ban on 3G/4G connectivity in J&K

The SC on May 11, 2020 {FOUNDATION FOR MEDIA v. UNION TERRITORY OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR & ANR.} held that the fundamental rights   of   citizens   need   to be   balanced   with   national   security concerns, when the situation so demands.

The SC Bench, comprising of Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice R. Subhash Reddy & Justice B.R. Gavai held that while it might be desirable and convenient to have better internet in   the   present   circumstances,   wherein   there   is   a   worldwide pandemic and a national lockdown. The Court held, however, the fact that outside forces   are   trying   to   infiltrate  the   borders   and   destabilize   the integrity of the nation, as well as cause incidents resulting in the death of innocent citizens and security forces every day cannot be ignored.

In the present case, the   three   Petitioners aggrieved   by   the   fact   that Respondent No. 1 has restricted the mobile internet speed to 2G  have approached the Supreme Court seeking 4G mobile internet, and the quashing of the impugned orders restricting internet in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Supreme Court observed that it was called upon to address a very important but a sensitive issue on national security and human rights, wherein the Court has to ensure that national security and human rights can be reasonably   and   defensibly   balanced,   a   responsibility,   that   the Court takes with utmost seriousness.

The Court held that although the present orders indicate that they have been passed for a limited period of time, the order does not provide any reasons to reflect that all the districts of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir require the imposition of such restrictions. It was also held that at the same time, the Court does recognize that the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been plagued with militancy, which is required to be taken into consideration.

The SC, therefore, held that the Court finds it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the 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 Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The Committee was directed to be comprising of Central Home Secretary, Central Department of Communication Secretary & Chief Secretary J&K.

The Special Committee was directed by the SC to examine the contentions of, and the material placed herein by, the Petitioners as well as the Respondents. It was held that the aforesaid Committee must   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 Respondent No. 1 (UT of J&K) regarding the same.

The   writ   petitions   were   disposed   of   in   the   afore­stated   terms by the SC. 

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