The Supreme Court has noted while it might be desirable and convenient to have better internet in the present circumstances amid a worldwide pandemic and a national lockdown, 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.”
The top court’s observations were as regards the high-speed internet, the issue which it has now left for a high-level committee to decide particularly on “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.”
In the same judgment delivered on three petitions seeking the restoration of 4G internet as it “impacts rights to health, education, to business and to freedom of speech and expression,” the top court recorded statement of Solicitor General that relevant authorities are cognizant of not only the changing circumstances but also the ground realities. The information regarding COVID19 available on various social media platforms, government websites, applications developed for disseminating information can be easily downloaded over the “2G internet”, he said. Moreover, no restrictions exist over fixed-line internet, the law officer added.
The apex court had reserved its verdict before Kashmir Valley was again plunged into a communication blackout following the killing Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo. The government rationale seems to be embedded in security concerns aimed to pre-empt the spread of protests. Last time, the killing of Burhan Wani led to law and order issues.
The mobile calling services, which were suspended, have been restored, it will help hundreds of patients who were in need to be ferried to hospitals. Also, it’s a great help to people needing to contact their loved ones in hospitals and quarantine centres. However, the continued bar on 2G internet and SMS services is having an adverse impact on the overall scenario.
The 2G permitted even somewhat educational continuity, allowed people to see face-to-face on social media faraway and ease emotions, etc as they cannot visit each other due to the need to maintain social distancing and due to lockdown.
The government as such needs to take a review and restore the services without delay.