Foundation for Media Professionals v. UT of J&K - Synopsis
Ahir Mitra 11 May 2021

Foundation of Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir

(2020 SCC online SC 453) 4G Landmark case

This case portrays the clash between National Security and Fundamental Rights namely the Right to Health, Right to Education, Right to Business, and Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. The petition was filed before Supreme Court of India for restoration of the 4G Internet Services in the valley. The restriction applied on the speed of the internet has been between 2G to zero.

The number of constraints, both quantitatively and qualitatively, has increased since Jammu and Kashmir's special status (article 370 and article 35(A)) was revoked on August 5, 2019. The internet limitation is still in place, in the form of a ban on 3G/4G internet. Article 370[1] of the Indian constitution grants the state of Jammu and Kashmir a very special status, which is granted in light of the circumstances in which the princely state signed the instrument of accession. In relation to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian constitution set some limitations on the central government's powers. However, in recent years, a number of undemocratic practices and policies have come to light, which has resulted in the loss of vital rights and powers bestowed on the state of Jammu and Kashmir by Article 370. Article 35A[2] of the Indian, Constitution gave the State Legislature of Jammu and Kashmir the power to identify "permanent residents" of the state and grant them special privileges.

The Indian government bases its response on national security and the connection between the internet and terrorism. The petitioner claimed that restricting the internet to 2G, particularly in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic and nationwide lockdown, infringed on their right to knowledge. It was also alleged that this restriction violated the Supreme Court guidelines provided in the judgment, Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India.

The petitioner also raised the concern that, at a critical time when the entire world is fighting the virus, the Ayush Ministry's various guidelines are not available to people in Jammu and Kashmir. The Supreme Court of India ignored this aspect of public health and was given no basis to back up its decision. The Court always stressed the point that national security is important. But National Security at the cost of Public health cannot be justified. Respondent countered that many social media platforms, government websites, and applications that disseminate advisories on the Covid-19 attack are also accessible via 2G Internet. The importance of the Internet increases in this situation, as these sites, which receive a large amount of traffic from all over the world during the lockdown and post-lockdown periods, can cause problems for the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.

The court ignored this issue, relying instead on the government's promises to create citizens' rights to health by distributing pamphlets and broadcasting information on the radio. The Supreme Court of India has decided to form a Special Committee, as the Court had previously directed in the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India.[3] The Court justified the Internet ban by citing Rule 2(2) of the Telecom Suspension rules, 2017. Since this is a case involving the protection of the entire country, the Court ruled that secretaries from both the state and national levels would be able to serve on the committee's composition committee.

[1] Constitution of India, 1949.

[2] Ibid.

[3] 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1725.


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