The central government has agreed to restore 4G Internet in one district each in Jammu and Kashmir division on a trial basis, more than a year after high-speed internet services were suspended on August 5 last year.
Attorney General KK Venugopal informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the special committee formed to review the situation has decided to provide the access to high-speed internet in limited and specific areas from August 16. The government will review the situation after two months, he said.
"Districts, where it can be provided and also the areas, will be identified and then 4G Internet will be given. We, however, make it clear that there will not be high speed internet in border areas. Further, this will be given only after assessing the security situations," Venugopal said before a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana.
The submission came as Centre responded to a contempt petition, citing lack of transparency in keeping the 4G access blocked and no application of mind.
On the last occasion, the bench had asked the Centre to consider providing high-speed internet in specified areas for limited purposes. The bench had frowned upon the delay on part of the Jammu and Kashmir administration and the Centre in taking a coordinated and considered stand on the issue.
Replying, the top law officer cited the decision taken by the special committee, which was also formed on a direction of the Supreme Court in an earlier round of litigation.
Reading out from the affidavit, AG, however, also maintained that the threat perception continues to remain high in J&K. "4G restrictions don't hamper medical assistance, education and businesses. (The) security scenario is such that 4G can't be restored in all areas," added Venugopal.
The bench then closed the contempt case against the Centre and the J&K administration. It, however, asked the Centre to submit a response in two weeks about publication of orders by the special committee as well as on whether the committee is reviewing the situations every week or not.
The court will hear the matter after two weeks now.
High-speed internet service in Jammu and Kashmir has been suspended since the Centre scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two union territories - Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Mobile internet at 2G speeds was restored in January, after a gap of five months.
The petitioner in the case, NGO ‘Foundation for Media Professionals’, had said in the absence of high-speed internet services, students could not attend virtual classes, businessmen could not transact, doctors could not give online consultation to patients and people’s free speech was impeded because of lack of proper internet.
The Centre has maintained that faster internet services can be misused in the region by elements inimical to peace, who act at the behest of a hostile neighbour to spread rumours and arouse passions of the public and disturb the atmosphere in the UT.