Relief Sought for Internet Restrictions in J&K in COVID-19

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court of India seeking restoration of 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir in light of the COVID-19 threat looming over the country. The Union Territories currently avails 2G mobile internet service facilities. Accordingly, there is no access to information from governmental authorities and the World Health Organization about the novel coronavirus. In addition, it is also difficult to practice social distancing since video conferencing facilities are frustrating.

High-speed internet service is needed for the work from home facilities, online classes, relevant information in the form of info-graphics, videos, etc. which are essential to living through the ongoing lockdown. The PIL mentions these aspects. It states, “Respondent No. 2 has launched various laudable initiatives such as the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard and MyGovIndia’s WhatsApp chatbot, which responds to queries and counters COVID-19 myths with text, infographics and videos that require access to fast internet.”

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the restriction on internet slawervices is said to be violative of Article 14 (Right to equality), Article 19 (Right to Freedom), Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty), Article 21A (Right to Education) of the Constitution of India. The PIL states, Severe restrictions on the speed of mobile internet services directly limits the Article 19(1)(a) right of the public to know the latest information about the spread of COVID-19, the measures being taken to address it, and the restrictions imposed on the general public.” It remains to be seen whether the Apex Court of the country provides relief to the people of J&K.