The Jammu and Kashmir Private Schools Association has filed a written petition in the Supreme Court seeking to restore the state’s 4G internet services, which have been suspended after J&K’s special status was abrogated on August 5, 2019. The petition was presented by Advocate Shadan Farasat.
Slow internet speed prohibits children in Jammu and Kashmir from pursuing their education as they are unable to use online resources such as Zoom or Google Classrooms that are open to students in other parts of the country, the association said.
Normal classes have been suspended since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and schooling has been taught using online methods during the past academic year. To justify this claim, the organization notes that online video conferencing applications do not work efficiently at 2G speed, and points to findings by separate technological experts.
The association, with 3800 schools as members, notes that J&K students are at a comparative disadvantage relative to students from other parts of the world due to the interruption of online classes.
It should be remembered that from August 2019, this will be the third round of lawsuits in the Supreme Court trying to restore 4G internet coverage in the state. In January 2020, the first round of cases filed shortly after the repeal of the special status of J&K culminated in the Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India judgment. While the judgment was eloquent on the importance of the internet for freedom of speech, expression, and commerce, as well as on the principles of proportionality, it did not order the immediate restoration of internet services and relegated the matter for consideration by the central government.
Later, following the onset of COVID, the Supreme Court filed another round of petitions alleging that the lack of 4G speed impaired the medical service, Education, trade, and trade during the lockdown, as these services were provided during the nationwide lockdown via internet.
According to the judgment in Foundation of Media Professionals v Union of India, these cases were disposed of in May 2020, which also did not order the immediate restoration of internet services but appointed a higher-level special committee to review the restrictions. In this situation, the Private Schools Association was one of the petitioners. An appeal for contempt was lodged in the Supreme Court after the ruling, alleging that the Centre expanded the limitations without the committee’s constitution.
The Centre advised the bench that the Committee had been formed and that it had agreed to continue the controls because of the possibility of terrorism. A slight relaxation was granted after August 15 last year by restoring 4 G internet in two state districts – Ganderbal (Kashmir division) and Udhampur (Jammu division) – but continuing the speed districts in other states.
The school’s association states in its second written appeal that the internet limitations are largely unjustified in the present circumstances. It refers to figures to state that since August 2019, extremism and stone-pelting cases have fallen significantly.
It is often claimed that the continuation of limitations fails to assess need, valid intent, suitability,and equilibrium.
It is argued that without applying their minds to the concepts set out in the Anuradha Bhasin and FMP judgments, the authorities are mechanically expanding the prohibitions and have not considered alternate alternatives, such as:
1) Identification, surveillance of their communications and/or blocking of their numbers by accused parties under relevant law based on intelligence Input.
2) The blocking of individual websites (‘blacklisting’) that, under Section 69A of the IT Act, are considered to promote terrorism or are used to employ terrorists.
3) Online connectivity controls in a particular area for a fixed period, depending on a specific threat feedback from intelligence.
4) Offline steps, for example, the considered and localized implementation of Section 144, Cr.P.C. Centered on reliable and relevant information that enforces travel restrictions.
5. On unverified pre-paid SIM cards, the government has also banned internet access. Since it is easier to track checked pre-paid SIM cards and post-paid links, they are unlikely to be used for any illicit activity and because they would be used by regular citizens, on such SIM cards, 4 G internet should be reinstated.
It has become a developed routine and permanent character in 18 district after more than 500 days of continuous internet restriction.
“…by restricting the internet in 18 out of 20 districts of Jammu & Kashmir on account of security concerns, the disputed Order treats all residents in these districts with suspicion of criminal activity. It is suppliantly submitted that the presumption of collective criminality has long been rejected in our law and jurisprudence.”
On January 22, the J&K administration released another order expanding internet speed limits in 18 districts until February 6.