Supreme Court had asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to explain why the internet speed has been restricted to 2G in the valley, in responsethe government has said that the “Right to access internet is not a fundamental right” and that the “Right to carry on trade and profession through internet can be curtailed.”
Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department, of the Union Territory of J&K had filed a reply, in a batch of petitions challenging the J&K Govt order dated March 26 where the internet speed was restricted to only 2G. The lead petitioner in the matter is the Foundation for Media Professionals.
The reply stated,
“Right to access the internet is not a fundamental right and thus the type and breadth of access for exercising the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) and/or to carry on any trade or business under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India (CoI) through the medium of internet can be curtailed. It is submitted that the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, public order or incitement to an offence, would certainly warrant curtailing the freedom of speech and expression, under Article 19(2).”
The government added that the “right to carry on any trade or business can be restricted in the interest of the general public under Article 19(6) of our Constitution.”
“These rights under Article 19(1) (a) and (g) cannot be said to be curtailed by reduction in the speed of the internet, as has been alleged by the Petitioner in the Petition/Application under reply.”
The J&K Government has stated in its reply that “current discourse of social media” suggests that “Pakistan is aiming to incite violence amongst college and University students” and that an increase in internet speed will lead to the “swift uploading and posting of provocative videos and other heavy data files.”
“Many hash-tags are being used by Pakistani handles to glorify Pakistan Army and terror outfits/terrorists and portray them as “fighters” for Kashmir’s “struggle”. Shadow handles, believed to have been “inspired” by/or at the behest of Pakistan Army try to allure people from Kashmir and living outside the country, to organize violent protests and rallies at their respective places and also participate in social media campaigns to further their antiIndia propaganda.”
Reasons stated for the restriction in the internet speed is “misuse of data services, applications like WhatsApp and Facebook for mobilizing crowds by anti-national elements”, which the government believes has the potential to cause large scale violence, disturb public order and “indeed threaten the security of the country.”
The reply also made a mention of few examples citing recent incidents where the lockdown was violated in the valley, arguing that how more such instances could occur if the internet restrictions are relaxed.
“Recently around 500 villagers gathered to attend funeral of a terrorist a few days back, defying the lock-down [which was imposed pan India], throwing social-distancing norms to the wind, circulation of photographs of terrorists of proscribed / prohibited terrorist organizations, on social media networking sites to provoke and mislead the public in general and the youth in particular thus making it imperative to take pre-emptive measures including, restrictions on access to internet”
The reply mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic has had “absolutely no impact whatsoever on chronic anti-national activities from across the border” and that “there has been a surge in terrorist incidents, post pandemic, most recent being on 05.04.2020, in Keran sector, Kupwara where 5 security personnel were martyred having successfully foiled infiltration bid along the Line of Control by 5 terrorists and killing them.”
On a positive note the reply mentions that Fixed-line Internet connectivity with Mac-binding, is available without any speed related restriction.
“For any activity dependent on heavy network usage, the broadband and fiber internet connectivity is available throughout the UT of J&K. It is noteworthy that access to social media has been allowed and the white listing of the URLs has been done away with.”
Read the Reply here: