The Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it has decided to allow 4G internet services on trial basis in one district each of Jammu and Kashmir from August 16.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the Government of India, submitted before a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana that an additional affidavit has been filed in the 4G internet restoration connectivity matter.
The Centre informed the Supreme Court that the special committee constituted to examine restoration of 4G services in Jammu and Kashmir has agreed to provide the high speed Internet access on a trial basis in limited areas.
Venugopal said that restrictions on Internet will be lifted on trial basis at certain geographical locations.
The Centre informed the court that the relaxation from August 16, in one district each of Jammu and Kashmir division will be assessed after two months. The government also said that blanket restoration of 4G in the UT would not be possible due to threats to security.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, remarked the move as a “fairly a good start”, and commended the Centre’s decision.
The bench also observed that it hoped the situation would improve and the access could later be expanded.
The Centre submitted that the special committee held its meeting on August 10, and explored multiple options in the backdrop of security situation in the union territory. They recommended opening up of 4G in specified areas of low intensity terrorist activities, not on international border even in the trial basis.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for the petitioner NGO, said: “Today is a good and a step forward at least some limited restoration has been made.”
Justice Ramana then closed the contempt case following the Centre’s submission.
The bench had given two weeks time to the Centre to file a reply on the intervention application. The contempt petition was filed by the NGO alleging that the Centre has not formed a special committee to review Internet restrictions in the UT despite the apex court’s order.
The top court had last Friday asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration that authorities concerned must come up with a definite stand on the possibility of restoring 4G services in select areas of the Union Territory while emphasising that the matter cannot be delayed any further.
“What is the basis of the decision that has been taken? Is there a possibility that in some areas 4G Internet services can be restored? Is there anything that can be done?” a bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Earlier in May, the top court had declined to restore 4G Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir emphasizing the necessity to strike a balance between national security and public need.
During a hearing on various pleas for restoration of 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, the apex court directed the Centre to immediately set up a high-powered committee headed by Home Secretary to examine grievances in connection with the continuation of restrictions.
The 4G internet services were made unavailable in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir after the Central government abrogated article 370 on August 5, 2019 and placed an unprecedented communication lockdown in the valley.