Plea in SC seeking restoration of 4G mobile internet services in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, in light of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic

The Supreme Court observed that a contract is void if prohibited by a statute under a penalty, even without express declaration that the contract is void

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to restore 4G internet speed in the Union Territory in light of prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior Facts:

The plea, filed through ‘Foundation for Media Professionals’, has assailed the order of the UT administration of March 26, by which internet speed has been restricted to 2G only in the state.

Key Features:

  • The plea, while seeking restoration of 4G internet services, alleged that the action of the government was violative of Articles 14 (right to equality), 19 (freedom of speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
  • Terming 2G telephone services as “outdated“, the plea said 4G internet speed would be useful in ensuring information flow to the citizens because of the COVID-19.
  • It said the plea has been filed to ensure the flow of information to citizens during these “extraordinary times when the number of cases of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Jammu and Kashmir has already reached 33, with 2 reported deaths”.
  • The plea said that “The advent of the COVID-19 global pandemic has fundamentally altered the existing situation. At present, the following facts exist: first, COVID-19 exists in India and is a highly infectious and communicable disease. Research into its origins and the best ways of tackling this disease is ongoing, and there is a continuing flow of new information about how best to contain the fall out of the virus, and limit its spread and impact”.
  • It added that these conditions — a pandemic and a lock-down – the restriction of mobile internet speeds to 2G only is completely unreasonable, illegal, and unconstitutional for the following reasons.
  • Firstly, the guarantee of life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India includes the right to health; and it is the constitutional obligation of the State to provide – or at least, not to inhibit the provision of – the essential infrastructure that makes this right effective, and not reduce it to a nullity.
  • Secondly, the right to health is a composite right which requires the state to take active measures to ensure the presence of necessary physical, and, by extension, digital, infrastructure, and a well-functioning internet, especially in times of an epidemic such as COVID19, is an essential part of this digital infrastructure that is required to make this right an effective reality.
  • Thirdly, the slow internet speed also renders telemedicine or online video consultation impossible.
  • Fourthly, the right to internet connectivity has repeatedly been recognised by the Government of India as a basic necessity or an essential service to ensure the right to health.
  • Fifthly, the impugned order has directly impacted the enjoyment of various other fundamental rights in the specific context of the ongoing lockdown. Restricted internet speeds are directly impacting the ability of children of Jammu & Kashmir to exercise their fundamental right to education, guaranteed under Article 21A of the Constitution since schools there are unable to shift their mode of instruction.
  • It also referred to the National Telecom Policy in support of its contention.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference:

  • Foundation for Media Professionals vs. Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, Home Department Through its Principal Secretary Room No. 307, 3rd Floor Civil Secretariat Srinagar and Union of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Through its Secretary, North Block, New Delhi, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) under Article 32 of the Constitution of India in the Supreme Court of India by Shadan Farasat, Advocate on March 30, 2020.
Previous articleSupreme Court disposes plea for conversion of hotels as isolation wards and shelter homes amid The Coronavirus Lockdown
Next articleCovid-19 Pandemic Reparations against China International Council of Jurists moves to UN Human Rights Council over China
Vaibhav Goyal is a 3rd year BA.LLB (H) student of UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He also basically belongs to the “City Beautiful-Chandigarh”. He had interned and have work experience at various Central and State Government bodies of India including the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi; the Central Information Commission, New Delhi; U.T. Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, etc. His research projects includes the study on the Right to Emergency Services (PSHRC), Resettlement of Migrant People (NHRC), Implications of RTI in Financial Institutions (CIC), etc. His publications involve articles in different fields of law like administrative, jurisprudence, etc. on online journals including the Juscholars Blog, Burnished Law Journal, etc. His research paper on Prison Reform was published in the Panjab University Journal and his paper was selected in category of best abstract on the topic of Naxalism: A State of Lawlessness and Arbitrariness. He had scored well in various competitions of law consisting of Quiz, Essay Writing, Lecture, Declamation, etc. He had also participated in various conferences including the World Law Forum Conference on Strategic Lawsuits on Public Participation held in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2018 and the National Law Conclave 2020 held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on Jan 11, 2020.